Marci Young, director of Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States, released the following statement about President Obama's FY 2012 budget proposal.
“The Obama Administration's budget proposal, which includes a critical investment to strengthen state early learning programs, including pre-kindergarten, creates a solid foundation on which future education reforms can be built.
“By including high-quality early education in his budget, President Obama has taken a critical step in ensuring young children's learning potential is maximized. Decades of research demonstrate that high-quality pre-k produces short- and long-term impacts in academic performance, especially among low-income children. President Obama's commitment to early learning will ensure that the achievement gap is addressed before children set foot in a kindergarten or 1st-grade classroom.
“Fiscal health comes from budget discipline and making smart investments in programs that offer strong returns. The research shows early learning programs provide children with a solid foundation for success, which pays dividends for families, school districts and taxpayers – and ultimately improves America's economic competitiveness.
“States and school districts are using pre-k as the foundation for their education reform strategies, because its benefits multiply when aligned with other effective reforms. If enacted, the proposal would arrive at a critical time for state leaders, the majority of whom have been working vigorously to protect early education funding in a challenging economy.
“Over the last decade, state legislators from both political parties have found common ground in their support of early education, even when facing budget shortfalls. Federal support for state early education efforts has never been more crucial. Congress should support the president's budget as well as make high-quality early education a key component in the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, our nation's major education law.”
Members of Congress demonstrated their support for the Early Learning Challenge Fund (ELCF) when the House approved it in the 111th Congress and later when the Senate included it in its proposed FY11 budget, but no version of the legislation passed. The ELCF, envisioned as a competitive grant program housed at the Department of Education, would provide funding to governors to develop innovative, evidence-based approaches so that every child enrolled in a voluntary early learning program receives a high-quality education.