Today at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C. President Obama announced that the nation’s high school graduation rates have reached a new high of 83.2 percent. President Obama used this, likely his last major Education speech, to address the range of education issues he and his Administration prioritized during its tenure.
As President Obama said today, “it starts with our youngest learners. High-quality early education is one of the best investments we can make, which is why we have added over 60,000 children to Head Start. We called for high-quality preschool for every 4-year old in America and when I entered office only 38 states offered access to state-funded preschool. Today it is up to 46. We are trying to get those last hold-outs to do the right thing. And by the way, the District of Columbia leads the nation with the highest share of children, nearly 9 out of 10 in high quality preschool.”
This President has been focused on education, including early education since day one. This is something that has carried through his eight years in office, from the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, which helped states expand their own early childhood programs, to working with a bipartisan Congress to pass our child care law, and integrating early childhood in our nation’s largest K-12 law.
His commitment to the issue was showcased on the national stage when he convened the White House Summit on Early Education in December 2014. During the summit, President Obama announced over $333 million in commitments from business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, and the public, who agreed to dedicate a greater ongoing percentage of their philanthropy to expanding high-quality early childhood programs and research. President Obama also announced over $750 million in federal funding for early learning programs through the Preschool Development Grants and Early Head Start – Child Care (EHS-CC) Partnerships, totaling more than $1 billion in critical public-private partnerships.
The Early Childhood Education field will lose a great leader and team when President Obama leaves office, but leaves a legacy from which a new Administration and Congress can truly build upon.