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President-elect Barack Obama promises change, and childcare centers and preschool programs across the country are in dire need of it.
Obama made it clear throughout his campaign that he is committed to education—to reforming No Child Left Behind; to rewarding and retaining teachers; to preparing high school students for college; to helping parents and students afford college; and, arguably most importantly, to investing in the education of our young children.
Research has consistently shown that investing in childcare and pre-k programs pays off. “For every $1 we invest in these programs, we get $10 back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health care costs, and less crime,” Obama said in a 2007 speech in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Obama’s Zero to Five plan is to invest $10 billion a year to support young children and their parents. Here’s what the plan looks like:
- Early Learning Challenge Grants These grants will provide states funding to support child care, early education, and other “zero to five” efforts. States will be required to match federal funds and will be given flexibility in how they choose to expand their programs.
- Support for Head Start The plan is to quadruple the number of eligible children for Early Head Start, increase Head Start funding, and improve quality for both.
- Universal Pre-School Obama’s plan will provide funding and will encourage all states to adopt voluntary, universal pre-school for all.
- Child Care Development Block Grant Program (CCDBG) This program provides critical support to low-income families to pay for child care. Obama’s plan will ensure that CCDBG remains adequately funded to account for cost-per-child increases.
- Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit Obama’s plan will reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for child care expenses.
- Presidential Early Learning Council This initiative will increase collaboration and program coordination across federal, state, and local levels.
Many educators are hopeful about Obama’s education plan. “It’s really exciting,” says Libby Doggett, Ph.D., Executive Director of Pre-K Now, a DC-based public education and advocacy organization that advances high-quality, voluntary pre-kindergarten for all three and four-year-olds. “To have a president who is not only talking about early childhood education in quite some depth but who does it with facility and passion is totally unprecedented.”
Parents, many of whom struggle to find high-quality childcare and pre-k that they can afford, are also looking forward to seeing Obama’s promises turn into realities for their children.
“The quality of childcare and pre-k programs is critical to a child’s emotional, social, and intellectual growth,” Doggett says. “Parents are looking for more than babysitters,” Doggett says. “They’re looking for teachers.”
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