Fifty adults — including the Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services, Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Representative Jim Moran (D-Va.) — visited the newest preschool among the Child and Family Network Centers (CFNC) to observe a quality bilingual program in action and to discuss President Obama’s newly released budget request for Fiscal Year 2015.
The children and their engaging teacher, Tonya Johnson, showed us, once again, how much young children learn through play and working together in a stimulating environment. Even with 15 visiting adults in the room, the children stayed on task, interacted positively with each other, and went about their business of learning.
I had as much fun listening to the happy sounds of learning from these joyful preschoolers as I did hearing from some of our country’s leaders, as they discussed how early education is represented in the federal budget requests for both the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. The President’s budget proposes $500 million — double last year’s funding — for Preschool Development Grants and reintroduces the Preschool for All initiative, with an initial $1.3 billion investment. There is additional funding in the budget request for Head Start, child care, Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities, and the new Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership grants.
Margaret Patterson, the Executive Director of the CFNC told the group how 30 years ago, eight parents of children who had failed kindergarten came together to assure their children gained the skills to succeed in school and in life. Thirty years later, ten CFNC centers are spread across Alexandria, Va., in close proximity to where some of the poorest families in the city live.
During the event at the preschool, Rep. Moran lamented the lack of educational funding for our youngest children, noting that “you would never plant a seed and then fail to water it.” Senator Warner observed how the children playing at the sand table reminded him of his job in the Senate— cooperation and sharing are key to getting things done, and, in the process, you had better make sure that you don’t get sand in your eyes. Secretary Sebelius reminded us of the importance of parents in their children’s lives and discussed the President’s proposal to increase funding for home visiting. Secretary Duncan closed the meeting by iterating the importance of quality programs and reminding us of the huge unmet need for preschool in our country.
Watch a clip of the visit below, and visit ed.gov/early-learning for more information.
Libby Doggett is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education