This is a guest post from Ann O’Leary, the director of the Children and Families Program at the Center for the Next Generation. The Center has launched a campaign called Too Small to Fail, a national movement to raise awareness about the state of America’s children and how the country can come together to create a stronger future for the next generation; we at Parents are one of its partners. O’Leary focused on the part of President Obama’s address that most directly impacts parents of young children: universal preschool.
Last night, President Obama began his State of the Union by harkening back to President John F. Kennedy’s declaration that it is the President’s task “to report the State of the Union – to improve it is the task of us all.” Top among the list of President Obama’s “unfinished tasks”: to make sure that our government works “to open the door of opportunity to every child across this great nation.”
President Obama’s plan to open these doors includes making “high-quality preschool available to every child in America.” If that happens, this could mean a brighter future for millions of children’s lives. Today, nearly 5 million children in the United States, or roughly 36 percent of all children ages 3 to 5, receive no form of early childhood education –- even when we know that’s one of the fundamental building blocks for success later in life. According to a RAND study: “Scientiﬁcally rigorous studies show that well-designed preschool programs serving 3- and 4-year-olds can improve school readiness and raise performance on academic achievement tests in the early elementary grades.”
Investing in preschool education also means great economic prosperity for our country. As Nobel Laureate James Heckman has outlined time and again, early childhood education gives back to society in real economic terms, with a “7 to 10 percent per year return on investment.” President Obama highlighted this research in his speech, noting, “Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than $7 later on –- by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.”
But the task of making high-quality preschool available to every child in America is not going to be easy. In 2011, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research, two-thirds of those states with state funded preschool programs made budget cuts to their preschool programs as states have felt the constraints of a weak economy. As the Center for American Progress outlined in their most recent proposal, it is going to take a partnership with federal and state investments leveraging local resources to truly create universal preschool and make sure that families’ income level is not the driving factor in deciding how much education their children can receive.
Despite the hard road to make these investments, they are critical to our future as an economic and global leader. Our competitors already have realized that investments in early learning are one of the keys to economic prosperity in the future.
In a study by the Center for the Next Generation and the Center for American progress called “The Competition that Really Matters,” we show that sustained competition from India and China are serious threats to our economic competitiveness. By 2020, China will provide 70 percent of all children with three years of early education and by 2030 China will have more college graduates than the entire American workforce.
I congratulate the President for making it clear that preschool for all should be a national priority. We need investments in early childhood education now; not only to nourish growing minds, but to set the foundations of a more efficient –- and internationally competitive –- economy for generations to come.
Is there a phrase you’d like to banish more than “fiscal cliff”? But before we put it out of our minds–temporarily, anyway–let’s hear a smart analysis of what the agreement hammered out on New Year’s Eve really means for families. This follow-up post comes from Ann O’Leary,the director of the Children and Families Program at The Center for the Next Generation. The Center has recently launched a campaign called Too Small to Fail, a national movement to raise awareness about the state of America’s children and how the country can come together to create a stronger future for the next generation; we atParentsare one of its partners.
In an 11th hour set of furious negotiations, Congress and President Obama reached an agreement on the so-called “fiscal cliff,” a self-imposed set of deadlines that would have resulted in automatic tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts in the absence of a deal.
In many respects, the deal is good news for America’s children and families.
It raises taxes on the wealthiest Americans (those families making over $450,000 per year, or individuals making over $400,000 per year) and uses the increased revenue to provide many supports for middle- and low-income working families.
It preserves the middle-class income tax cuts put into place in 2001 under President George W. Bush.
It also ensures a lower tax bill for more working parents by extending the expansion of two critical tax breaks for taxpayers with children—the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit—particularly to reach larger and lower-income families.
In addition, it lowers the tax bill for low- and moderate-income families who are helping pay for their children’s college tuition by extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
Finally, the deal extends unemployment insurance benefits to the long-term unemployed, many of whom are parents desperately searching for a job in a still-weak economy.
But as I explained just before the holidays, the fiscal cliff is only the latest hurdle faced by our government in trying to resolve much longer-term debates about how much debt the United States should carry, which revenue and spending policies will best help the economy grow, and whether the United States can sustain the commitments it has made to America’s seniors through Social Security and Medicare.
None of these bigger and more difficult questions have been resolved as part of this deal. In fact, Congress and the President agreed to delay the automatic budget cuts to major federal spending programs for only two months and to delay the question of whether Congress will again raise the country’s debt limit. This means that the President and the Congress, divided by deep ideological differences about how best to spend taxpayer dollars, have again agreed to automatic spending cuts that will take effect in early March, including cuts to some of our most impactful programs for children—Title I funds that aid schools with the most low-income students, federal funding that goes to states to help schools pay for the costs of aiding children with special needs and disabilities, and funding for Head Start to provide critical early education opportunities to our neediest children.
It also means that, at some point soon, Congress and the President will reopen the debate about reforming Social Security and Medicare, our largest entitlement programs. Along with debating those entitlement programs, they are likely to put back on the table possible cuts to Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—programs that provide essential health and food security for millions of America’s children.
So, we may have temporarily rescued our kids from the edge of the cliff. But the political winds continue to push them toward the precipice.
Photo: Fiscal cliff phrase in the sand being washed away via Shutterstock.
Obama Win Clears Health Law Hurdle, Challenges Remain
President Barack Obama’s re-election eliminates the possibility of a wholesale repeal of his signature healthcare reform law, but leaves questions about how many of the changes will be implemented as the national focus shifts to tackling the U.S. debt and deficit. (via Reuters)
What Obama Win Means for Education Reform
President Barack Obama—who pushed through an unprecedented windfall of education funding in his first term and spurred states to make widespread changes to K-12 policy through competitive grants—has been re-elected. With education issues, including funding and college loans, a steady though never central theme on the campaign trail, there is a lot left on President Obama’s to-do list. (via Education Week)
Children, Teens at Risk for Lasting Emotional Impact from Hurricane Sandy
After Hurricane Sandy’s flood waters have receded and homes demolished by the storm repaired, the unseen aftershocks of the storm may linger for many children who were in the storm’s path, particularly those whose families suffered significant losses. (via Science Daily)
FDA Grants Priority Review to Roche’s Breast Cancer Drug
Roche, the world’s biggest maker of cancer drugs, said U.S. health regulators granted a priority review to its experimental breast cancer drug TDM-1, expediting the review process for the marketing application of the drug. (via Reuters)
DNA Sequencing of Infants and Children With Anatomical Defects of Unknown Causes
A one-year-old research initiative brought together researchers, clinicians and policy experts to tackle the challenges of incorporating new genomic technologies into clinical care of newborns, infants and children with anatomical defects whose causes are unknown. (via Science Daily)
One woman in Illinois, mom-to-be Galicia Malone, cast her vote this morning despite having contractions five minutes apart. According to NBC Chicago, the 21-year-old arrived at the polls for her first presidential election at 8:30 am, even though her water had already broken. She then gave birth at a local hospital.
Chicago’s Cook County Clerk, David Orr, commended Malone for her effort: “If only all voters showed such determination to vote. What a terrific example she is showing for the next generation, especially her new son or daughter.”
Colorado kids of different ages and backgrounds were asked to share the questions they felt presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney should answer during their debates. These cute and clever kids also share their favorite hobbies and what they want to be when they grow up. Some of the silly and serious questions these kids want to ask include:
Do you like dinosaurs?
How will you decrease childhood obesity?
Will you make the school year shorter?
How can you help me pay for college?
What are you doing to improve children’s health care?
Parents partnered with The Center for the Next Generation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort that aims to help the country come together to create a stronger future for our children. As we gear up for our first presidential debate on October 3—which focuses on domestic policy—we want the candidates to know about parents’ biggest concerns. This infographic spells it out in no uncertain terms.
The big story, of course, is how the recession has impacted all of us. A full 90 percent believe that there aren’t enough jobs that pay enough to support a family. More than a quarter of parents have had to work longer hours (or their partner has) because of the economic downturn. It’s directly affected children, too: 36 percent of parents say that they haven’t been able to afford for their kids to participate in some of the activities their friends participate in.
And in one of the most eye-opening findings, nearly 20 percent of parents said that the recession contributed to their decision not to have another child.
This is surely why two-thirds of parents, when asked to choose between an extra $10,000 per year or an extra hour every day of quality time with their children, opted for the money. It makes you wonder: If you were given the choice, what would you pick?
Here’s hoping that when President Obama and Governor Romney meet in Denver next week, they address the issues that cause so much of the anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with post-recession parenthood.
Obama Writes Note to Excuse Boy from School
When a Minnesota fifth-grader skipped school to see his father introduce President Obama at a campaign event, he received the excuse note of a lifetime, personally written by the president himself.
The Nurse-In: Why Breast-Feeding Moms Are Mad at Target
Nursing mothers intend to turn out en masse from Maine to Oregon to breast-feed their babies while wandering through after-Christmas markdowns or sipping a latte in the in-house Starbucks — it’s a maternal twist on civil disobedience: the nurse-in.