White House releases Obama early childhood proposal: Expand pre-k for low and moderate income families

The White House released an outline of the ambitious early childhood initiative that President Obama will announce today in Decatur after a visit to a pre-k there:

The President’s proposal will improve quality and expand access to preschool, through a cost sharing partnership with all 50 states, to extend federal funds to expand high-quality public preschool to reach all low- and moderate-income 4-year olds from families at or below 200 percent of poverty.

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. 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.

Funds will support states as they ensure that children are enrolled in high-quality programs. In order to access federal funding, states would be required to meet quality benchmarks that are linked to better outcomes for children, which include:

•State-level standards for early learning;

•Qualified teachers for all preschool classrooms; and

•A plan to implement comprehensive data and assessment systems.

•Preschool programs across the states would meet common and consistent standards for quality across all programs, including:

•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 proposal also encourages states to expand the availability of full-day kindergarten. Only 6 out of 10 of America’s kindergarten students have access to a full day of learning. In order to ensure that our kindergartners spend the time they need in school to reach rigorous benchmarks and standards, funds under this program may also be used to expand full-day kindergarten once states have provided preschool education to low- and moderate-income 4 year-olds.

Under the President’s proposal, investment in the federal Head Start program will continue to grow. The President’s plan will maintain and build on current Head Start investments, to support a greater share of infants, toddlers, and 3-year olds in America’s Head Start centers, while state preschool settings will serve a greater share of 4-year olds.

The President will also launch a new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program, to support states and communities that expand the availability of Early Head Start and child care providers that can meet the highest standards of quality for infants and toddlers, serving children from birth through age 3.

Funds will be awarded through Early Head Start on a competitive basis to enhance and support early learning settings; provide new, full-day, comprehensive services that meet the needs of working families; and prepare children for the transition into preschool. This strategy – combined with an expansion of publicly funded preschool education for four-year olds – will ensure a cohesive and well-aligned system of early learning for children from birth to age five.

The President is proposing to expand the Administration’s evidence-based home visiting initiative, through which states are implementing voluntary programs that provide nurses, social workers, and other professionals to meet with at-risk families in their homes and connect them to assistance that impacts a child’s health, development, and ability to learn. These programs have been critical in improving maternal and child health outcomes in the early years, leaving long-lasting, positive impacts on parenting skills; children’s cognitive, language, and social-emotional development; and school readiness. This will help ensure that our most vulnerable Americans are on track from birth, and that later educational investments rest upon a strong foundation.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

42 comments Add your comment


February 14th, 2013
10:07 am

So Obama wants to expand Head Start even though the government’s own study found it does not have any lasting academic effect.


But I get it: the real point is to take impoverished kids away from their entitlement-addicted parents for a few hours a day and place them in the company of (we hope) better-quality people who are employees of…wait for it…a massive entitlement program. This is how we’ll create a future generation of real leaders!

The idea that these children — who couldn’t, after all, choose their own parents — need to be around better role models is the only part of this that withstands any scrutiny. And it is true that children exposed to educators early on develop better language skills and are more likely to stay out of trouble later on.

But leave it to Obama’s Nanny State to declare that it wants to be–literally–your child’s nanny.

Concerned Parent

February 14th, 2013
10:16 am

It’s all about funding. Floyd county school system has to cut $7 million dollars. That’s a lot of teachers out of a job.

Pardon My Blog

February 14th, 2013
10:18 am

And where will he get the money? Is this the China model, institutionalize the children starting when they are infants?

10:10 am

February 14th, 2013
10:40 am

Our federal government has a spending problem that has ballooned the national debt from $10 trillion to $16 trillion in Pres. Obama’s first term.

And now we should take on even more social spending?

My Kids Mom

February 14th, 2013
10:45 am

And we’ll do what with the children with special needs? There are just not enough good teachers and teachers of special education to go around. We end up with college grads with no teaching training at best and community college 2 year grads trying to fill the gaps.


February 14th, 2013
10:49 am

Great. Take a successful state program, federalize it with more bureaucracy to add spending and debt that never reaches the children. Applauding such waste is the liberal way.


February 14th, 2013
10:57 am

You mean to tell me that we now have to start intervening at birth? Good grief. Surely the parent(s) can handle it from birth to 3 years old. If not, why are you having children? I am so tired of throwing good money after bad in these programs. Guess my property taxes need to be 100% for education and $0 for everything else.


February 14th, 2013
10:57 am

Well, this is just more of take from the middle class to provide more entitlements for those who choose not to work and be productive. Add another reason for them to have kids just to get freebies. Provide the sorry non working parents free day care and 2 meals aday for their uncared for brats. People who do not believe this has never worked in the schools or offices that offers these entitlements. People it is time to get your heads out of the sand and see what is really happening!

Michael Moore

February 14th, 2013
10:58 am

The real issue for kids is poverty. Schools cannot solve our social problems. Study after study confirms that kids who enter school from low socio-economic households tend to be behind no matter how early you have them start school and the gap only widens. It’s called the Matthew Effect: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Atl Parent

February 14th, 2013
11:04 am

Here’s waste: Not funding universal pre-K, even when the best randomized, longitudinal studies show that children given access to quality pre-K are significantly more likely to pay taxes, be law-abiding citizens, have savings accounts, and graduate from college. We take money from future generations when we don’t fund pre-K now, because they have lost tax revenue, higher prison costs, and higher welfare costs. Estimates are that every dollar spent on quality preschool returns 8-10% a year (I wish my portfolio gave that return…). These numbers are why so many businessmen and economists support universal pre-K.

Oh, and God forbid, we should have enough civic spirit to believe that American children in poverty are more than just leeches on our precious tax dollars. Is the guarantee of public schooling for our citizens part of an “entitlement society”? Or is it rather part of our civic responsibility to each other and to our nation as a whole? If pre-K is a waste, why should we have first grade–parents should be able to educate their first graders or pay for it themselves! And what about the feelings of entitlement about going to fifth grade? I, for one, am aghast that parents of 10 and 11 year old children should expect tax dollars to fund fifth grade. Why should people with 20 year old kids or those without children pay for them?

My Kids Mom

February 14th, 2013
11:13 am

Rick in ATL: Your article is not comparing Head Start to no schooling, it is comparing Head Start to other early learning programs. The point is that most of these programs DO help tremendously– and save the taxpayers tons of money in the long run. The more children we can enroll in ANY early childhood education, the better. Head Start may be no better than other early childhood programs, and that is what your article claims. A quote from your own article is here:

“The design used here answers the policy question, how well does Head
Start do when compared against the other types of services or care that low-income
children could receive…”

What you probably didn’t read (did you get past the headline?) was this

“At the preschool level, the story is far clearer, as providing access to Head Start was found to
have a positive impact on children’s experiences across many measures of early childhood
experience. There were statistically significant differences between the Head Start group and the
control group on every measure of children’s preschool experiences measured in this study…The differences in magnitude were quite large, driven in part by the large proportion of children in the control group who were in parent care (i.e., nearly four out of ten children remained at home with their parents when Head Start was unavailable to them).”

Read the whole article before you throw it in as evidence.


February 14th, 2013
11:14 am

@ Atl Parent – Before lauding yet another universal government early education program, let’s look at an existing one.

A 2011 report by the Department of Health and Human Services is titled “Head Start Impact”. The study concludes “the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole. For 3-year-olds, there are few sustained benefits.”


February 14th, 2013
11:14 am

Well said ATL parent. My children attend Pre-K in Decatur, and I volunteer in their classroom. They have made great gains this year, but the biggest gains I have seen have been made by the low-income children. Children who couldn’t speak English at all when they started, children with holes in their shoes and clothes, children who come to school ravenous to eat breakfast in the cafeteria because they don’t get fed at home.The gains made by these children has been amazing to witness and I think provides a valuable lesson to their luckier, well-fed peers with involved parents.
If my children were in the UK or France they would have started public school at 3. It’s totally the norm.

Atl Parent

February 14th, 2013
11:43 am

@ Centrist: If what you look for is academic gain then, depending on the quality of the pre-school, it may very well disappear by later grades (though the gains won’t disappear if the pre-school is really good–indeed, in one of the best long term studies, done over 40 years, there were IQ gains that never went away). But what kids learn in pre-K and what makes a huge difference to later life outcomes are the ’soft skills’: self-control (particularly of emotions), sitting still, standing in line, working with others. It’s much easier to habituate 3 and 4 year olds in those ways and, as Brit undoubtedly sees in his pre-school, it’s the kind of thing that better prepares children to learn and do well.

when will it stop?

February 14th, 2013
11:47 am

At some point in this country we have to stop spending money we don’t have. There shouldn’t be a single new program that is unfunded. If this is such a great thing (and that is highly debatable), then either reduce spending elsewhere or put it to a vote and increase taxes if it wins.

The Obama administration will try to pass it off as free, but it definitely is not.


February 14th, 2013
11:48 am

Brit, you also missed the cogent point. Georgia spends about one-third of its lottery proceeds on the successful pre-k program you support at half the price per child as the failed federal government Head Start program.

The take away here should be that States do a better job with less bureaucracy and one size fits all national programs.


February 14th, 2013
12:00 pm

Hmm…wonder where the Federal Government is going to get the funds..as its debvt to GNP is now approaching 100% ( was at 50% whern the King took over), we are well over $16.5 Trillion in debt ( 32.5% of the worlds debt but only 5% of the population) + another $238 Trillion of unfunded liabilities…and we are going to spend even more…where oh where will it come from but then only 58% of the working age population is working..perhaps we could ask them for more!!!

Atl Parent

February 14th, 2013
12:12 pm

@Centrist: I don’t understand how I missed anything. I never claimed that the federal government rather than the states (or municipalities, for that matter) should administer the program.

It should also please you, if you think the Georgia program is successful, that the current proposal is for the federal government to offer matching funds to states to run their own pre-K programs. And if Oklahoma, Georgia, and Alabama are the models to be followed, surely Americans of all political persuasions can find something to like here.

At heart, I’m a pragmatist. And the best evidence we have suggests that pre-K is a great investment for our nation and our tax dollars. If someone can show that is not true, then I’ll change my mind.

@Cosby: We should be cautious about our debt, but forgive me if I don’t think it’s a crisis as long as we make prudent adjustments. What gives me confidence that it isn’t a crisis requiring drastic cuts? The bond markets and the fact that our nation can borrow money at historically low rates.

Old timer

February 14th, 2013
12:14 pm

Read Kyle Wingfield’s column today about Head Start. It’s own agency that runs it says after 20 years it is a failure.. The government does nothing well and increases the cost of everything they are involved in.

Old timer

February 14th, 2013
12:20 pm

We also need to remember, as a country we are broke…..leav his to states and local governments.


February 14th, 2013
12:26 pm

Im 43. There wasnt Pre-K and K was optional at times. I ate at home for breakfast, paid full price for lunch that mostly threw that away. I didnt blame my parents for me not doing my homework, they both worked two jobs. I made it because I wanted to, not because the government needed another program that my working parents would be paying for.


February 14th, 2013
12:26 pm

In Obama’s State of the Union he said this would not cost one dime…lol he just told another lie. Does he know how to tell the truth?


February 14th, 2013
12:34 pm

I can understand the conservative view if the existing program didnt work at all, then, investing in a failing program would be wasteful. But the studies have shown how the program works and expanding it to me is a good thing. Investing in early child hood education is a win win for the future of the country and the next generation of bright young minds that can be developed in the process. Its funny how people argue that everyone should work hard and strive for the best, but for some reason is hesitant in investing in such a matter. One of the reasons I support the President is because he believes in education and he understands that everyone does not have the some opportunity to get the best education. At some point we have to level the playing field. why not start as early as Pre-K where the kids minds are fresh and open to anything taught to them. This is called a foundation, you have to invest in it and build upon it, to see positive results…
For those against the matter, what would be your suggestion. I see complaining but no solutions..
Im Just Saying

Really amazed

February 14th, 2013
12:41 pm

I thought Georgia was already doing this via the GA LOTTERY PROGRAM??????


February 14th, 2013
12:45 pm

totally disagree with this program,i along with most of my friends did not go to pre-kindergarden,or kindergarden,we went to school,when we were 6 yrs old,into 1st grade,and we all turned out fine. kids should be kids,and have fun with the kids in their neighborhood,before the age of 6.–its not fair to the kids to take their childhood away,and not fair to the tax payers,to be have this tax burden put on them.

Reality Check

February 14th, 2013
12:49 pm

Concerned Parent – how you confused the Presidents pre-k plan with Floyd County school funding I do not know. This will have very little to no effect on the overall school funding of Floyd County.

Rick L in ATL

February 14th, 2013
1:20 pm

@my kids mom: I said the Head Start study had no lasting academic impact, but then acknowledged that early childhood exposure to educators benefits these kids in significant ways. You might have wanted to read my post more carefully, because the Head Start study says exactly that.

If pre-K is that great an idea, let’s fund it and pay for it– here in Georgia. Our federal government is supposed to do a few basic things and leave other tasks to the states. Obama is the sugar daddy who’s using borrowed money to woo you. Don’t be so easily seduced.

Road Scholar

February 14th, 2013
1:29 pm

Read the above comments and because many do not want to fund it we should not help any children. Heck, take away every program out there to help them adjust out of poverty and to learn how to responsibly support themselves. Then these people can complain even more in 10-15 years on how these “moochers” continue to take more and more money, if not for social programs, but also for food stamps, police and court services, and prison. We don’t need no stinking eduction!

The state has already cut state funds to schools by 25% over the past years. Just what is your solution? Cutting taxes some more? And what affect will that have on society? The schools in this state are already at 49th in the country. Why not 50th?

Atl Parent and My Kids Mom: You get it! Good posts!

Rick L in ATL

February 14th, 2013
1:41 pm

@Road: I’m for diverting some additional lotto proceeds to Pre-K. Reason: college-bound seniors can earn scholarships, apply for grants and (as I did) borrow money. 4-year-olds have none of those options. So, yes, I want to fund it. I’m not saying don’t do it here. I’m just telling our bloated, heavily indebted, incredibly inefficient federal government not to do it.

If Georgians aren’t smart enough to build this for themselves, it isn’t Sugar Nanny’s job to come in and rescue us.


February 14th, 2013
2:12 pm


February 14th, 2013
3:00 pm

Not for nothing but, he could have done all this with a memo instead of flying “Big Bird” (2 of them mind you) around the country at $1,000,000 or so an hour….each??? Get back to the office, get to work. We get it, another entitlement that may/may not have any positive impact. Email it to us, we’re set. I’ll scrounge around my junk folder later to review it….

What’s next? Free lunch? Free Breakfast? Free Afterschool Care? Free Surrogate parenting? Oh wait….we’re there already….wanna help? Give them free birth control and reduce the numbers needing ever more free stuff……just a thought….


February 14th, 2013
3:05 pm

I think any idea is better than nothing. I support the president. Georgia is 49th out 50 states in education test results for a reason. This is a state that could definitely use more kids coming up with better education. The govenment is you, so if Rick and all the other folks on these posts have better ideas ,go ahead and start them and maybe we won’t be 49th or 50th every year. We are getting beat by the competition more and more everyday and that’s what he is trying to stop. If you haven’t noticed, a lot of your phone calls on tech support and other things have gone overseas and will continue to do so unless we get people like you to understand that this is a global competition and if you don’t want to pay for it, we will continue to lose jobs and struggle against global competitors such as India, China and so on. Your choice.

Rick L in ATL

February 14th, 2013
3:11 pm

And yet, desperate to spin the negative findings in any way possible, the author of that Tennessee summary concluded that the program was a “success” because it “prepared” kids to go to–get this–kindergarten. Do you know what you have to do to get your kid ready for kindergarten? Get them effing dressed. It’s <kindergarten, you morons. Quit trying to sell us stupid. If you read to your child and aren’t a lowlife, your child will do just fine without Sugar Nanny’s universal Pre-K.


February 14th, 2013
3:31 pm

The president wants an extended program of early education from birth on.

So stick your baby in a government preK and wish him well. Rediculous! Babies need their mothers breast feeding them if possible, then hugs and loving at every move, little fables read to them as their comprehension grows, and music and books (not TV) at their level. Grandmothers can do most of this also.

That is what 1-3 little ones need. Not a government caretaker with four or five babies needing care.. Mothers cannot be replaced. Good mothers, that is.

The president is assuming that poor mothers cannot be good mothers. We have too many examples to prove that wrong. If you love your child, don’t make the government your babysitter. Your child needs you for care and attention, not a government cube to substitute for love and parents.


February 14th, 2013
3:36 pm


February 14th, 2013
4:10 pm

Why is doing spending huge amounts of money on worthless programs better than “doing nothing” (i.e., not wasting money)? When did that idea take hold? Perhaps the fact that idea is prevalent is in itself proof the public education system is failing.

Ga Patriot

February 14th, 2013
4:35 pm

@Brit 11:14 – You nailed the real problem – the parents, who get food stamps yet don’t feed their kids, get welfare but don’t clothe their kids, do nothing but don’t teach their kids. Welfare brood mares have tattoos, long fake fingernails, and studs in their nose and other places, TV’s, cell phones, but have no money or time for their kids? All these programs have failed because of generation failure to rise above and no self-motivation and no societal shame for the most outrageous bad behavior. When criminals’ moms are interviewed on TV, I cannot understand what they are even saying. Let’s put our money where it can breed success – only help those who are wanting to help themselves.

If you want a step up for your children, then wait to have them until you can afford them.

Pardon My Blog

February 15th, 2013
10:17 am

Thank you GA Patriot!


February 15th, 2013
12:27 pm

Yea Thank you Ga Patriot,

Let me explain something to those of you who think like Ga Patriot
yes there are plenty mooching off the system, there always has been and there always will be.
I have nothing against means testing the welfair system, and food stamps, i have no problem with
reforming the system as a whole that could realistically save the taxpayers money and weed out the moochers. What i dont believe in, is putting all these people in a bubble and making them suffer because of the actions of some. The reason you cant understand these “Criminals moms” is because she wasnt well educated or exposed to different things while growing up. She didnt choose to live where she lives. She didnt choose to go to the schools she attended. People complain about the schools system but then are totally against investing in them to make them better. Everyone cant go to private schools, everyone cant afford the travel expenses to attend a good charter school.
in most cases the people you see on TV, are a product of their enviroment. Some have it within themselves to want to do better and not be another statistic, but everyone situation is different, not everyone can escape the stronghold of their circumstances. Sometimes you have to provide just a little motivation to those who see no way out to give them hope. Thats why investing in education wisely is so important. It sounds like most people on here just want to give up on the real victims, and thats the children. They are the ones that suffer. If you dont want them having kids at a young age then educate them. Teach them about the consequences of having children at a young age. But giving up on them and just saying the heck with them is unacceptable. We have to invest in our children, because investing in our children is investing in our future. They are our future and if they fail, we fail…


February 17th, 2013
4:50 am


to sum: we’ve spent $180 billion on this program since inception at an annual cost of $23k per pupil. Any measureable differences at pre-k disappear by 3rd grade. So, advocates, spending other people’s money, recite that there are “soft benefits,” like “sitting still.” I suggest that those “benefits” disappear by middle school, and are not much bang for the buck, let alone $23,000/year/pupil.
The program is a massive failure whose primary beneficiaries are the “educators” hired to run it, saving them from having to find real work based on their skills and qualifications, rather than their voting records.

politic discourse

February 27th, 2013
9:36 am

The HHS follow up study of Head Start states the following in the key findings section:

“Looking across the full study period, from the beginning of Head Start through 3rd grade, the evidence is clear that access to Head Start improved children’s preschool outcomes across developmental domains, but had few impacts on children in kindergarten through 3rd grade.”


“In terms of children’s well-being, there is also clear evidence that access to Head Start had an impact on children’s language and literacy development while children were in Head Start…However, these early effects rapidly dissipated in elementary school, with only a single impact remaining at the end of 3rd grade for children in each age cohort.”

There is no disputing the benefits of Head Start access. No one is asking the right question here: what is going on in kindergarten through third grade to allow such indisputable gains to “dissipate.”

Just about every commenter here is so blinded by either their support or hatred of government services that the real problem is being completely ignored—and the children are continuing to suffer while the adults engage in a bitter non-sequitur.

Maureen Downey

February 27th, 2013
9:44 am

@politic; I think Michael Petrilli of the Fordham Institute had a succinct observation on this issue:

“The major federal effort in pre-K — the 45 year-old Head Start program — has been found again and again and again to have few long-term benefits for participants. Any gains fade out by the third grade. A reasonable question is whether that’s the fault of Head Start or the fault of our dysfunctional public-education system. But there’s little reason for confidence that new federal spending in pre-K, if it looks anything like Head Start, will lead to better results for poor and middle-class children.”