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Obama To Offer Preschool Cost-Sharing Plan

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Unread 02.14.13, 12:48 PM
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Obama To Offer Preschool Cost-Sharing Plan

02.14.13 11:31 AM

WASHINGTON, (UPI) –* President Barack Obama’s call to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America includes a cost-sharing program, the White House said Thursday.

The federal-state funding “partnership” would “provide all low- and moderate-income 4-year-old children with high-quality preschool,” the White House said ahead of Obama’s visit Thursday to a suburban Atlanta preschool to tout his proposal, first outlined in the State of the Union address Tuesday.

Obama was to visit a pre-K classroom at College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur at 12:10 p.m. and deliver remarks about his preschool plan at 1:20 p.m., the White House said.

The 350-student center, about 7 miles east of Atlanta near Emory University, also offers early learning child care for 6-week-old infants to 3-year-olds, a federal Head Start Program for 3-year-olds, preschool special education for 3- and 4-year-olds, and an after-school program for 4-year-olds, the center’s website says.

Obama’s proposal also would expand preschool programs for middle-class children and give incentives to full-day kindergarten policies, the White House said.

In the 2010-2011 school year, the latest year with data, 28 percent of 4-year-olds in the United States went to state-financed preschool programs, a report by Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research indicated.

State financing for pre-K programs that school year decreased by $60 million, despite the use of $127 million in federal economic stimulus money, said the report, which can be found online at tinyurl.com/nieer.

Obama said in his State of the Union speech every $1 spent on preschool education ultimately saves about $7 on spending for remedial education and crime, while raising future tax revenues because children who attend high-quality preschool programs usually end up earning higher incomes than those who don’t.

Critics argue Washington already has tried a national preschool program with Head Start, which serves some 1.1 million low-income children and their families with education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services.

Critics point out individual program studies have shown benefits, but an October 2012 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study of 5,000 3- and 4-year-olds in 84 local Head Start programs found few lasting benefits by third grade. The report can be found at tinyurl.com/oprereport.

Obama’s preschool proposal is part of a three-prong plan that also includes expanding Early Head Start and child care for infants and toddlers and extending volunteer home-visiting support for “vulnerable children and families,” the White House said.

“The U.S. Department of Education will allocate dollars to states based their share of 4-year olds from low- and moderate-income families, and funds would be distributed to local school districts and other partner providers to implement the program,” a White House statement said.

“The proposal would include an incentive for states to broaden participation in their public preschool program for additional middle-class families, which states may choose to reach and serve in a variety of ways, such as a sliding-scale arrangement,” it said.

Qualifying preschool programs would need to have “well-trained teachers, who are paid comparably to K-12 staff, small class sizes and low adult-to-child ratios, a rigorous curriculum, comprehensive health and related services and effective evaluation and review of programs,” the White House said.

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