Obama Administration Budget Makes Major Investment in Early Learning

Early Learning Spending GraphicStudies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in school. Yet the United States ranks 28th in the world for the enrollment of 4-year-olds in early learning, and 25th in public investment in preschool. Only 3 in 10 children attend a quality preschool program. Doing better is more than just a moral and educational imperative; it’s smart government: a public dollar spent on high-quality preschool returns $7 through increased productivity and savings on public assistance and criminal justice. From a growing number of voices, including from the recently concluded work of the Equity and Excellence Commission, the call has been clear to expand quality early learning in the United States.

To help all children begin school on a level playing field, the President has put forward in his 2014 budget request an historic new investment in early learning that would make preschool available to all 4-year olds from low-income families. The core elements of this proposal are:

  • Preschool for All ($75 billion over 10 years). This investment would support grants to States for the implementation of high-quality preschool programs that are aligned with elementary and secondary education systems. The Department would share costs with States to provide universal access to high-quality preschool for children from low- and moderate-income families and provide incentives for States to serve additional middle-class families.
  • Preschool Development Grants ($750 million). This program would provide grants to States to carry out activities that would build state capacity for implementing high-quality preschool programs, and expand model programs at the local level. The Department would provide competitive grants to States with preschool systems at various stages of development that are planning to provide universal access to high-quality preschool for four-year-old children from low-and moderate-income families to carry out the activities needed to successfully serve four-year-old children in high-quality programs.

The administration also requests funding to increase or maintain key investments in a number of programs that seek to improve outcomes for young children, especially for those with high needs:

  • Early Intervention Programs for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities ($463 million, $20 million more than the fiscal year 2013 amount). These formula grants help States implement statewide systems of early intervention services for all eligible children with disabilities and developmental delays from birth through age two and their families.
  • Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities ($373 million). These formula grants help States make a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment available to all children with disabilities ages three through five to help ensure that young children with disabilities succeed in school.

The Department of Health and Human Services is also investing in young children by requesting significant increases in funding for programs that include Head Start, Early Head Start and the Child Care and Development fund.

Secretary Duncan talks with teacher and Teaching Ambassador Fellow Dan Brown about the importance of high quality preschool for all children. Watch:

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

To read more details on the Obama Administration’s budget request for investing in early learning, visit www.ed.gov/early-learning.

Read more about the 2014 Education Budget and the bottom line.


  1. This budget main purse is Early learning,If Today’s child is future leader I think it would be effective steps. this is the historical steps of Obama Govt, I deeply think.

  2. The key word here is “quality.” I would never send my child to the Headstart program I work for because the quality is not high enough. There are minimum requirements which we meet, but many of our inner city children live in such dysfunctional neighborhoods and families that the minimum is not good enough. There are so many young children suffering emotional trauma and disability. It is impossible for teachers to meet these children’s needs and prepare the whole class for kindergarten. But the “important” thing is that we meet the required student/teacher ratio. The model of mixing age groups does not work, yet we combine three-year-olds with five-year-olds in order to be allowed to put more children into a class. But the main task of pre-schoolers is socialization. Until they can work and play cooperatively, children are not ready to learn to their fullest potential. To really make a difference, we need to go beyond pre-school and early intervention to social change. So, yes, please fund early childhood education. But a much harder task is to make a change in how we as a society view childraising.

  3. Our school district operates a universal preschool in a partnership with Head Start. The results have been amazing! We have seen such gains from our students coming into the kindergarten! The students who start kindergarten are now on a much more level playing field than ever before! Universal preschool, taught by highly qualified teachers, is a very wise expenditure!!!

  4. Funds have been available for low income families to choose preschools for several years, but high quality preschools are more expensive and there have continued to be cuts in this program. I hope that this program will allow parents to continue to choose the program they want, including faith-based programs, but increase the allowance so they can afford a great program. (We have had parents want to choose our program, which is faith-based and accredited, but because of the cost they must choose a less expensive program.)

  5. This is a part of President Obama’s budget that I am really excited about. It’s an opportunity to do some outcome based monitoring to see that teachers are headed in the right direction with teaching methods. The early intervention special needs component should have an impact on children who are diagnosed at an early stage with autism.

  6. STOP THE SPENDING! Head Start failed to have an effect on 110 out of 112 outcome measures for the four-year-old group. For the three-year-old group, Head Start failed to have an impact on 106 out of 112 measures, with five beneficial impacts and one harmful impact!

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, “Head Start Impact Study: Final Report,” January 2010, at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/hs/impact_study/reports/impact_study/hs_impact_study_final.pdf (October 19, 2010).

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