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State of the Union Address 2015: President Obama Confirms the Commitment for High Quality Early Childhood Education

21 Jan 2015 by Rebecca Berlin

Since I joined Teachstone over three years ago, I have eagerly listened to the State of the Union Address—always with a hopeful mind and heart—waiting to hear the mission of high quality early childhood education woven into the framework of the annual speech. As a teacher, a faculty member, a researcher, a mother, and now a leader in an education company, I know the difference that high quality education focused on the early childhood years can make, and I am committed to doing everything in my power to move this mission forward. I now use the Address as a barometer for measuring the priority level early childhood education has within the national platform for the year that follows.

I still remember the goose bumps I felt during the 2013 State of the Union Address when President Obama spoke those memorable words that sky rocketed early education into the dinner conversations of Republicans, Democrats, Independents and everyone in between:

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high quality preschool available to every child in America. . . . Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than 3 in 10 four year-olds are enrolled in a high quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can't afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives.

A year later, as I reflected in my blog on the 2014 State of the Union Address, I was disappointed in the lack of optimism that President Obama shared in regarding the road forward for early childhood education. His frustration with Congress was evident in his voice and his words as he noted, “and as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K they need." It was evident that even he doubted if his dream to “change the odds for all our kids” would be fulfilled during his presidency.

Fast forward to Tuesday night when a reenergized President took the podium for the 2015 State of the Union. I not only had goose bumps, but I also had tears in my eyes as a recommitted President echoed his early campaign and inauguration speeches on the promise of change for all children and families.

He boldly stated what all of us who are parents, teachers and directors know but few Americans outwardly acknowledge.

In today’s economy, when having both parents in the workforce is an economic necessity for many families, we need affordable, high-quality childcare more than ever. It’s not a nice-to-have—it’s a must-have. So it’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or as a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us. And that’s why my plan will make quality childcare more available and more affordable for every middle-class and low-income family with young children in America.

As I noted Monday in my first blog post of the year, 2015: Is Going to be a Wild Ride, there are many factors coming together this year including Preschool Development and Expansion Funding, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Funding that have the opportunity to truly change the face of early childhood education in the United States. It is an exciting time, but it will also be a challenging time. I know that many times each week I struggle with the weight of what we are trying to do. When you are at your darkest moment with one more lesson plan to write, one more meeting to attend, one more budget to balance, remember the words President Obama uttered below to inspire you to push forward to we make this mission a reality.

I want our actions to tell every child in every neighborhood, your life matters, and we are committed to improving your life chances as committed as we are to working on behalf of our own kids. . . . Everybody matters. I want them to grow up in a country that shows the world what we still know to be true: that we are still more than a collection of red states and blue states; that we are the United States of America.

I am honored to work with each and every one of you to achieve this mission and make a difference today, tomorrow, and every day for our children and the children of our country.

Continued good luck in 2015 and keep hanging on for the wild ride!

Rebecca


CLASS Implementation Guide Call to Action