In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama proposed working with Congress to provide all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds access to preschool education and expand programs to reach hundreds of thousands more middle-class youngsters. He also called for giving incentives to states to provide all-day kindergarten.
Most 4-year-olds aren’t in high-quality public preschool programs, the president said, and just 10 states provide full-day kindergarten. New York launched its Universal Pre-Kindergarten program in 1998 with the goal of full implementation within four years. However, funding has been frozen at 2008-09 fiscal year levels, and districts that didn’t already offer universal pre-kindergarten could not apply. Most districts that receive funding are providing half-day programs. The state’s Board of Regents is proposing the state spend $75 million to expand the number of slots statewide and restructure the program to focus on low-income students.
America must have the most dynamic, educated workforce in the world, and that education has to start early in life,” Obama said in his address. “Every dollar invested in early learning and development programs saves about $7 down the road in higher earnings that yield more revenue, and lower government spending on social services and crime prevention.”
The pricetag, however, would be steep. It could cost states and the federal government $15 billion each year to provide universal preschool, according to Bloomberg News. Bloomberg quoted Lisa Guernsey of the Washington-based New America Foundation, who said quality programs can cost an average of $8,000 per child. States and the federal government currently budget about $9 billion a year, and the expansion could add between $10 billion and $15 billion annually to that. There are more than four million 4-year-olds in the country, she said.
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