Last week’s White House Summit on Early Education marked the beginning of a campaign to increase funding for early childhood education across the country. On top of announcing a $1 billion investment for programs for young learners, President Obama also called on businesses, philanthropists and celebrities to lend their support to the cause by funding programs in their local community.
Countless studies have shown that starting education at a young age greatly improves a child’s chances of graduating high school, and obtaining and keeping good jobs in adulthood. The problem is that most preschools and other early education programs are private institutions, and therefore not a viable option for children from low-income families.
Last year only 28% of four-year-olds in the United States attended public preschools, according to PBS. The President hopes that this new campaign will make more public programs available to children from birth to age four.
Education Department grants totaling $250 million were awarded to 18 states at the summit. The grant money will go towards creating and improving preschool education programs. The Department of Health and Human Services is also awarding another $500 million to over 40 states to support programs for children from birth to three years old.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in early childhood education investments also came from the efforts of the Invest in US campaign. Created by the First Five Years Fund, Invest in US aims to improve programs for young learners by asking businesses from the public and private sectors to invest more in childhood education. The Walt Disney Co., LEGO Foundation, and the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation were among those supporting the cause with generous donations.
Helping President Obama launch the Invest in US campaign is a team of celebrities, including Julianne Moore, Shakira, John Legend and Jennifer Garner. The four celebrities participated in a series of PSAs that discuss the importance of an early education and call on the audience to help support programs in their communities.
In 2013, President Obama urged Congress to help him make preschool programs available to all children — without much success. By making good on his promise to do more to invest in early childhood education and highlighting the benefits of starting education at a young age, the President hopes to finally achieve his goal.