Today in New York City, hundreds of parents, teachers and advocates participated in the first Preschool Nation Summit, where they shared strategies and solutions for expanding early childhood education in every community across the country.
The keynote address was delivered by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose plan for universal full-day pre-K has been widely praised as one of the most significant achievements in expanding publicly funded preschool in recent years. This fall, enrollment in the city’s pre-K programs is expected to double, totaling nearly 53,000 children.
But the path to pre-K was not a simple one. Mayor de Blasio spoke to the entrenched attitudes that had to be overcome to make this historic expansion a reality:
“I remember the first conversation I had with the press corps on this issue – there was a bemused tone in some of the questions. As surely, this was an impossibility. What a charming notion but surely impossible. And change happens only when you venture out a big idea and relentlessly pursue it.”
To create a Preschool Nation, Mayor de Blasio says we must set a similar course for the country and hold our elected leaders accountable to deliver the resources and investments needed to make quality early learning opportunities a reality for all children.
In a panel discussion following the Mayor’s address, FFYF Executive Director Kris Perry stressed that elected officials, and Congress in particular, need to recognize that voters of all political persuasions consider investments in early childhood education an urgent priority.
Perry pointed to the results of a national poll released last month that shows a large majority of Americans support increased federal investment in early learning and would support candidates who take action within the next two years to expand learning opportunities for children ages five and under.
New York City, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have done a lot to create an early childhood education movement with serious momentum. But it doesn’t stop at New York. Communities across the nation, mayors and governors, Republicans and Democrats are doing the hard work to expand preschool, home visiting, Head Start and other early childhood opportunities. What’s needed now is an increased federal investment to support the efforts of state and local governments who are taking the lead toward building a Preschool Nation.
Take a minute to contact your Congressional Representative and U.S. Senator and tell them to do whatever it takes to step up and provide significant investments in the future of nation’s youngest citizens.