Education Secretary Suggests Plan to Ramp Up Early Learning Investments in Obama’s Second Term
February 4th, 2013 by Paul Nyhan
The New Year holds perhaps the greatest potential for federal progress on early education in recent years, with the Obama administration sending strong signals it’s working on an ambitious plan to expand access and plenty happening in Washington state.
Over the weekend, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said the administration has to do more in early learning, repeatedly mentioning the importance of expanding access, during an interview with Bloomberg Edu. Duncan also tackled the political problem of early education investments, namely that most returns show up years after the politicians who voted leave office. (Check out the first part of the interview to get a sense of how strongly Duncan supports early learning.)
“We have to continue to invest in early education; that is arguably the most important investment we can make,” Duncan told host Jane Williams. “We have to get out of the catch-up business and the best way to get out of the catch-up business and to level the playing field is to get our babies off to a great start.”
Duncan’s comments came only two weeks after a Huffington Post report suggested the administration is considering a major expansion of early education. What does it all mean? It is far too early to know that, and the early report is probably one of several ideas and not what, if anything, will emerge. But, Duncan’s comments make it clear President Barack Obama will propose something major in early learning, and one that expands access for under-served families.
It will be a big step from any plan in Obama’s budget to reality, with a large federal deficit and a Republican-led House. But, there is reason for new hope because support for early learning is expanding among leaders in both parties. Check out Education Week’s analysis, “Governors Tackling Early-Childhood Education in Budget Proposals.”
In Washington state, advocates are hopeful about the possibilities of expanding the state-sponsored preschool initiative, Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), and building on momentum for home visiting and Race to the Top work.