President Barack Obama's new goal of enrolling 6 million children in high-quality preschools by the end of the decade includes 3-year-olds, in addition to the 4-year-olds who are part of his earlier Preschool For All initiative, according to a White House official.
Obama noted the new goal in the middle of a lengthy speech last week at Northwestern University about the economy and domestic priorities. A White House official told The Huffington Post this week, on background, that the new number includes children ages 3 and 4.
"If we make high-quality preschool available to every child," Obama said last Thursday, "not only will we give our kids a safe place to learn and grow while their parents go to work; we’ll give them the start that they need to succeed in school, and earn higher wages, and form more stable families of their own. In fact, today, I’m setting a new goal: By the end of this decade, let’s enroll 6 million children in high-quality preschool. That is an achievable goal that we know will make our workforce stronger."
The Preschool For All initiative was first detailed during the president’s 2013 State of the Union address, and seeks to provide “all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds with high-quality preschool, while encouraging states to serve additional four-year-olds from middle-class families.”
However, even as states have increased their efforts on this front, a piece of federal legislation on the issue has stalled. A bill put together by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), based on the White House preschool plan, has made little headway in Congress.
Obama’s Northwestern speech marked the first time he had put a hard number on how many children he would like to see enrolled in early education programs in upcoming years, according to Education Week.
However, given that the country is far from providing most 4-year-olds with preschool access, the president’s goal to do the same for all 3-year-olds seems particularly lofty. Clare McCann, a policy analyst at the New America Foundation, broke down the goal.
“The president’s proposed Preschool for All plan would put a significant amount of money behind helping states expand access and improve the quality of their publicly funded pre-K programs,” wrote McCann. “But with an intractable Congress -- one that seems increasingly likely to be under Republican control in both chambers after the November midterm elections -- more money probably isn’t in the cards anytime soon.”
There are currently only about 2 million children ages 3 and 4 enrolled in public preschool programs, according to Education Week.
A recent report from the Center for American Progress noted that the high cost of early childhood education has put a strain on America's middle class.
“The annual cost of child care exceeds the median rent costs in every state. Preschool programs are equally costly,” says the report. “And despite the high cost of child care, quality is low, especially for children of color.”