Sen. Clinton Proposes Pre-K education for all

Early Education Leads to Higher Achievement; More than 80% of 4-year-olds Not Enrolled in State Pre-K Programs

MANCHESTER, NH – New Hampshire educators are praising Hillary Clinton’s proposal to expand pre-kindergarten classes to serve all of America’s 4-year-olds, providing them with a high-quality early education that studies show leads to higher achievement, graduation rates and higher-earning careers. More than 80 percent of 4-year-olds are currently not enrolled in state pre-kindergarten programs.

"Senator Clinton's pre-K proposal shows she understands that the wisest investment we can make for the future of our country is the investment we make in our children's education,” New Hampshire House Majority Leader Mary Jane Wallner, who has been a prominent early childcare advocate in New Hampshire for decades and Director of the Merrimack Valley Day Care in Concord, NH. “Brain research has shown that developmentally appropriate early education programs help young children obtain the skills they will need to be successful in school.”

Senator Clinton’s plan is a pro-active, detailed approach to Early Childhood Education and clearly shows Hillary’s commitment to education,” said Marilyn St. George, a former Reading Recovery teacher and literacy specialist who teaches third grade at Wilkins Elementary School in Amherst, NH. “This initiative reaffirms for me the respect that Senator Clinton has shown in the past for educators. Requiring highly qualified teachers to teach four-year-olds is essential as young children are at a crucial developmental stage and need and deserve the very best we have to offer.”

Hillary’s plan would expand access to the more than 3 million 4-year-olds who are not enrolled in state pre-kindergarten programs, providing states with matching funds to devise their own programs and requiring that classes be taught by highly-trained teachers. Studies show that universal pre-kindergarten programs pay for themselves after nine years and produce a growing annual return in the years beyond.

“Every child - not just children whose parents can afford it - should have the same chance to succeed and to fulfill his or her God-given potential,” Clinton said. “As President, I will establish universal pre-kindergarten education through a federal-state partnership, based on state flexibility that ensures every four-year-old child in America has access to a high-quality pre-kindergarten program.”

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) in a statement yesterday welcomed Clinton’s pre-K Plan. “Sen. Hillary Clinton knows what we at the AFT know: Children’s success in school starts long before they enter a kindergarten classroom. Our country has long needed—and the AFT has long called for—a universal pre-kindergarten program. We commend Sen. Clinton for choosing early childhood education as the focus of the first major education initiative of her presidential campaign.”

The AFT represents 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; nurses and healthcare workers; and federal, state and local government employees.

“It is so important that children entering First Grade are fully ready to learn and it is essential it is for preschool to be available to all children,” said St. George. “A quality preschool program provides the child with their very first educational experience and can be the catalyst that transforms a child to ‘learner’ early-on. If this stage of learning is given the importance that is necessary, the child will become a lifelong learner who is also enthusiastic and confident.”

Hillary’s plan includes:

Quality Pre-K for All

Ensuring High-Quality Curriculum

Giving Governors Flexibility to Devise State Programs

Federal-State Partnership to Provide Matching Funds

Meeting Parents’ Needs

Universal Pre-K

Expanding Opportunity, Meeting Parents’ Needs

Today, Hillary Clinton announced a proposal to provide quality pre-kindergarten to all children to ensure that they are ready to learn when they start school. Currently, less than 20 percent – only 800,000 out of four million – of four year olds and 120,000 three year olds are enrolled in state pre-K programs, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. Hillary’s proposal would ensure that every child who needs pre-K would receive it by providing universal access to high quality pre-K for four year olds in five years through a federal-state partnership. Her proposal also provides flexibility to allow states to serve younger children once they have provided pre-K to all four year olds who need it. This Presidential policy builds on her record of working for children over the last 35 years.

Quality Pre-K for All: Hillary Clinton is proposing a national Pre-K initiative that would provide funding to states to establish high-quality pre-K programs. States would have to devise a plan for making voluntary pre-K services universally available for all four year olds in the state in order to participate. In addition, they would provide pre-K at no cost to children from low-income children and/or limited English homes. As states increase participation and growth their programs, the federal government will be their partner, scaling up its investment in concert with states.

Ensuring High-Quality Programs: To ensure that programs prepare children to be ready to learn, states would have to ensure their pre-K programs they are high quality. This means hiring teachers with a bachelor’s degree and specialized training in early childhood development; using an age-appropriate curriculum; ensuring that each child receives individualized attention through low teacher to child ratios; and monitoring and providing oversight of children’s health and safety. If states have achieved these quality benchmarks, they will be able to use the funds flexibly to meet the needs of their local communities. They could serve younger children; raise teachers’ salaries; provide additional support and training for teachers or engage in other activities that expand and improve their pre-K programs.

Working with Governors: Because states use different methods for administering their early childhood systems, funds from this program will be allocated to Governors. Governors will use this funding to build upon their early childhood systems.

Meeting Parents’ Needs: The proposal requires states to work with existing community-based preschools to ensure that parents a range of options when deciding where to enroll their children.

A Needed Investment: States will match the federal investment dollar for dollar. States’ must provide pre-K services free of charge to four year olds from low-income working families and children from limited English households. States may also use these funds to expand their Head Start programs. The federal government will allocate $5 billion in the first year to states to establish and administer universal Pre-K. Over the next five years, the federal commitment will increase to $10 billion as states increase their commitment to Pre-K.

A Worthy Investment: According to Nobel Laureate James Heckman of the University of Chicago, one half of the black-white achievement gap present at the end of high school is evident before children start school. Studies show children aged 2-4 who participate in high quality, intensive preschool interventions:

  • Are less likely to repeat a grade (Yale Child Study Center, “State Efforts to Evaluate the Effects of Pre-Kindergarten)
  • ?Are less likely to be placed in special education Chicago Longitudinal Study)
  • Score higher on 4th grade math and reading proficiency tests (Yale Child Study Center, “State Efforts to Evaluate the Effects of Pre-Kindergarten).
  • Graduate from high school at higher rates (Chicago Longitudinal Study).
  • Are employed at higher rates and earn higher wages (High/Scope Perry Preschool Project).

According to a recent analysis by economist Robert Lynch, high quality universal pre-kindergarten programs pay for themselves after nine years and produce a growing annual return in the years beyond. In response to this research, states have increased their investments in pre-K significantly in recent years. State level spending has increased by $1 billion in the last two years alone. Yet, state-funded pre-k programs still serve less than one in five four year olds in the U.S.