The President Calls Upon Congress Once Again to Increase Early Education in State Of The Union

President Obama laid out a plan for universal Pre-K in his 2013 State of the Union address, and came back to that theme in his 2015 speech.

“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,” Obama said during this week’s address. “It’s not a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have. It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”

Congress has not moved much on his universal concept: Head Start and Preschool Development Grant appropriations remained level in 2015, although the Child Care and Development Block Grant did see a $75 million bump. And the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, which supplied $1 billion to help states expand early learning, has not been appropriated funds since fiscal 2013.

Obama has begun to move what he can out of the Oval Office. In 2014, the President vowed to convene philanthropists and leaders in the business community to help fill the gap left by stalled federal efforts. He pulled that together at a White House summit held in December, new public and private commitments were announced–totaling more than $1 billion collectively–$750 million in public dollars and $330 million in private investments (see table below).

“For all the progress we’ve made, for all the children who are on a better path, today fewer than three in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in high-quality preschool,” the President said during the summit. “It’s not that working parents don’t want their kids to be in safe, high-quality learning environments every day. It’s that they can’t afford the costs of private preschool. And for poor children who need it most, the lack of access to a great preschool can affect their entire lives.”

On the same day as the summit, the White House released a new report, The Economics of Early Childhood Investments. The President’s Council of Economic Advisers analyzed current data and presented the findings, which includes home visiting programs as well as early education programs.

Some of the key findings by the council include:

  • Overall, roughly every $1 spent on early education, would yield $8.60 of societal benefits (half of which can be attributed to increased earnings when the child is an adult).
    • Early childhood education increases cognitive and achievement scores by 0.35 standard deviations on average, or nearly half the black-white difference in the kindergarten achievement gap.
    • Early childhood education can increase earnings in adulthood by 1.3 to 3.5 percent (that number alone is bigger than the cost of early ed programs).
    • Providing better access to and lowering the cost of high-quality child care can significantly increase mothers’ employment rates and incomes, and this increase in family income can improve children’s outcomes.
    • A meta-analysis of home visiting programs found that these programs significantly improved parenting behavior and parenting attitudes, while increasing schooling enrollment among mothers.

Summit Commitments:

Private Investments

Name Location Amount Purpose
Age of Learning Inc./ Nationwide $10 million (in kind) To provide to every preschool classroom, Headstart program and kindergarten classrooom in the U.S. over the next 2 years.
Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation Houston $250,000 To support of Houston Independent School District’s Read Houston Read initiative, in which volunteers read to first graders online or in person. The investment also includes a volunteer management platform, called Connect 4 Literacy, which provides access to more than 20 literacy focused nonprofit organizations and HISD.
Bezos Family Foundation Seattle $5 million To support scientific discoveries and the translation of research into practice, innovative communications efforts that bridge the gap between what we know and what we do, and the dissemination of research-based tools that promote children’s brain development.The funds will support grants in neuroscience and early childhood development; scalable parenting programs that strengthen parent-child interaction; dynamic messaging efforts that leverage technology; the development of corporate and community partnerships; and the creation of Early Learning Nation communities across the country.
Collective Greater Cleveland Community Effort Cleveland $10.2 million The collaborative is made up of The George Gund Foundation, The Cleveland Foundation, the PNC Foundation and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. The collective’s funds will go towards supporting Cleveland’s new plan to ensure all three- and four-year-olds have access to high-quality preschool
Collective Illinois Effort Chicago $7 million The collaborative is made up of Grand Victoria Foundation, Irving Harris Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Joyce Foundation, and Donors Forum. The funds will be used to leverage federal initiatives in Illinois as well as nationally to ensure Illinois children and their families have access to high-quality services prenatally through age five.
Collective Long Island Effort Garden City, NY $13.5 million The Rauch Foundation will contribute $7.5 million and the Hagedorn Foundation will contribute $ 6million to This funding will focus on expanding the Parent-Child Home Program in New York, strengthening state and local early childhood systems and leveraging existing funding to expand access to high-quality early learning opportunities on Long Island.
Collective Santa Barbara County Effort Santa Barbara, California $3.5 million The effort is comprised of the Orfalea Foundation, James S. Bower Foundation, Santa Barbara Foundation, Hutton Parker Foundation and the Towbes Family Foundation. The new funds will create and expand quality early education through a place-based comprehensive approach aimed at significantly improving school readiness in targeted communities. In addition, County funders aim to create a network of 40 high-quality early childhood centers that model innovative Preschool Food and Outdoor Classroom practices and provide high-quality preschool services to at-risk children and their families.
Common Sense Media San Francisco Unspecified In early 2015, Common Sense will announce an initial multi-million dollar commitment to this new advocacy platform and efforts from major investors. Common Sense will launch broad new programmatic efforts to distribute easy-to-use development and learning materials on technology, media, and early childhood in both English and Spanish. Common Sense Media will also release new state-of-the-art research on technology and media use by its youngest children entitled “Zero to Five,” with a unique array of demographic data offerings.
Commomweal Foundation Silver Spring, Maryland $10 million This investment will expand the availability of high-quality preschool, support the development and demonstration of research based early learning curricula and materials, and provide instructional coaching to teachers and leaders.
The David and Laura Merage Foundation Englewood, Colorado $15 million To support the national scaling of their model which provides a comprehensive, fully integrated bridge between small, market-based child care providers and the often-siloed child care regulatory, quality improvement and subsidy systems.
Early Childhood Funders Collaborative Silver Spring, Maryland Unspecified The collaborative will support new funders in the field by providing a vehicle for pooled or aligned funding to support building the capacity of states and communities. will provide peer-to-peer support to new funders, increase the collaborative relationships with fellow affinity groups, and provide shared learning opportunities regarding current developments in the field. ECFC will manage a voluntarily pooled fund to increase the capacity of organizations to provide technical assistance to states and communities and ensure strong documentation of the impact of federal initiatives on local and state systems.
Foundation for Child Development New York City $2 million To support NYC’s universal preschool initiative. The foundation will support research, program evaluation, and professional learning to enhance the knowledge, skills and dispositions of the city’s early learning workforce.
George Kaiser Family Foundation Tulsa, Oklahoma $125 million To support of high-quality early childhood education programs and related parent engagement efforts for at-risk families with children from birth through three years of age. The investment will provide more early childhood school sites and a community-wide engagement initiative which will include parents, caregivers, teachers, businesspeople, pediatricians and pastors, alongside other community members, to improve the quality of adult and child interactions for Tulsa’s youngest children.
Grand Victoria Foundation Chicago $2 million The new investment will support grants that will be directed at developing sustainable community systems as well as providing technical assistance to help program providers meet higher quality standards through ExceleRate and to support the work of Illinois’ Early Learning Council to advance a well-coordinated, comprehensive system for children and families.
The Heinz Endowments Pittsburgh $9 million The new grants dollars (in addition to $8.1 spent annually on Early Education) will go towards implementation of the 10 recommendations of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Early Childhood Education; support for Pennsylvania’s Preschool Expansion Grant; new advocacy efforts to mobilize Pennsylvania citizens to support universal preschool by elevating the Pre-K for PA campaign; a challenge grant to   corporations to support ECE efforts; support to build a stronger business collaborative in Pittsburgh; support of a campaign to raise an additional $1 million for early literacy efforts; implementation of new home visiting programs that will forge a new partnership with Pittsburgh’s Health Department and Department of Human Services; and new health and wellness initiatives in maternal and child health led by the Department of Health.
The Heising-Simons Foundation Los Altos, California $6.6 million The Foundation will invite proposals to help match federal investments in early childhood-focused programs in order to increase the pool and quality of resources available in California and nationally in the areas of family engagement, implementation of federal policy at the state level, and research to uncover what works in early learning. Up to $2.6 million will support efforts to enhance the quality of family engagement in California’s U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships and Preschool Expansion Grant, assuming federal grants are awarded to California applicants. Up to $2 million will facilitate planning and implementation of federal investments, such as the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), and advancing the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program in California and other states to ensure these important programs meet their full potential. Up to $2 million will complement federal research efforts to help uncover what works in supporting young children’s learning and development.
Irving Harris Foundation Chicago $2 million To leverage federal initiatives such as the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, home visiting expansion, and high-quality early learning and mental health systems integration in Illinois as well as nationally. In addition, the Foundation commits $3.5 million in 2015 and 2016 to extend new support for the 15 U.S.-based programs in the Harris Professional Development Network (PDN), a network of 18 early childhood and infant mental health leadership sites located in 10 states, the District of Columbia and three sites in Israel.
J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation Chicago $ 25 million The new investments will be in three areas: 1) Scaling zero-to-three high-quality, evidence-based early childhood programs; 2) Advancing early learning Social Impact Bond investments to increase access to evidence-based programs; 3) Furthering research on the economic efficacy of government investments in early childhood development that transform the lives of disadvantaged young children and their families.
The Joyce Foundation Chicago $1 million The Joyce Foundation will support the Collective Illinois Effort to address the school readiness gap in Illinois by supporting strategies that promote innovations in family engagement and bolster teacher quality in early education programs.
Kaplan Early Learning Lewisville, North Carolina $1.6 million KELC plans to invest over $120,000 towards the goal of reducing childhood obesity through a partnership with the Nemours Foundation in support of the National Early Care & Education Learning Collaborative Project. KELC will continue its financial support of $25,000 annually to the Nemours BrightStart! Initiative, a program designed to help struggling readers successfully transition to kindergarten and beyond. KELC will also donate more than $500,000 on behalf of nonprofit organizations such as, Child Care Aware of America, and the National Head Start Association to help support and advocate for the children and families these programs serve. Another $500,000 will be invested into a collaboration with Yale University to translate, adapt, and validate a comprehensive curriculum.
The Kenneth Rainin Foundation Oakland $5 million An investment will be made in California’s new grade level, Transitional Kindergarten (TK), which requires new commitments to the workforce. In a multi-year, multi-partner initiative, the Foundation will provide evidenced-based professional development that includes training, coaching, child progress monitoring, and environmental assessment to increase the quality of instruction for 730 TK children in Oakland by Spring 2015. In partnership with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the District, the Foundation’s commitment will fund a new Deputy Superintendent of Early Learning, support the development of a birth-12th grade citywide data system, and plan for the full utilization and expansion of subsidized preschool.
Knowledge Universe Nationwide Unspecified Knowledge Universe commits to 100% of their private ECE programs achieving national accreditation by 2016. They also commit to providing families in high-risk communities a Guide to Reading and a series of parent videos supporting such concepts as serve and return and the importance of speaking, singing, and reading to infants and young children. We commit to developing and distributing an inclusion services toolkit containing recommended tools and resources to support our over 25,000 educators working with children with diverse needs.
The Kresge Foundation Detroit $20 million To build out a high-quality early childhood development system in the city of Detroit in collaboration with local, state and federal partners.
Lego Foundation Billund, Denmark $5 million To launch the Early Learning Initiative with New Profit, Inc. The Initiative will convene a cross-sector community of thought leaders, practitioners, researchers and philanthropists who will build on shared learnings to identify and lift up approaches that offer scalable, high-impact results for young children. This effort will select and support a set of six to ten investments in organizations that emphasize whole-child development in reaching children and the parents, caregivers and educators who support them.
The Marriot Foundation Bethesda, Maryland $5 million To support quality early education for all children aged zero to eight in the District of Columbia.
Newark Early Learning  Funders Group – Council of New Jersey Grantmakers Newark, New Jersey $1.5 million For high-quality early childhood education for the children of Newark and of the state of New Jersey. The group will advocate for, and support, children aged zero to three by: 1) Improving Parents’ Access to Information; 2) Providing Early Childhood Teachers with Opportunities for Professional Growth; and 3) Improving Early Learning Centers by Investing in Center Directors.
Overdeck Family Foundation New York City $3 million The foundation seeks to invest in programs that expand the capacity of early childhood teachers and leaders, strengthen the quality of early learning, support parents and caregivers in promoting learning at home, and improve continuity in children’s formal learning from birth through third grade.
Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. Baltimore $200,000 in kind Brookes Publishing will support programs in beginning and/or extending developmental screening for all the children by developing an Ages and Stages (ASQ) Screening Resource Center that will include new educational tools designed to help early childhood programs prepare and organize, conduct, and follow through on developmental screening.
PVH Corp New York City $5 million To support the Save the Children early education program.
Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) New York City $20 million To expand the scope and reach of the U.S. Department of Education Ready To Learn (RTL) Grant program. The grants will increase the amount of free, high-quality content created and distributed to enrich early learning experiences in more homes, child care centers, and classrooms, deploy innovative approaches to improving early education including free digital tools to help parents support their children’s learning, and expand professional development opportunities for the early learning workforce.
Robert R. McCormick Foundation Chicago $2 million The new investments will leverage federal initiatives such as the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, and home visiting expansion to ensure children and their families in Illinois have access to high-quality early learning services that support success in school and life. Funds will be used for the Collective Illinois Effort in 2015.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Princeton, New Jersey $ 15 million At the national level RWJF will invest $4 million to work to advance the integration of child development, social and emotional skills building, and health supports within early care and education settings. At the local level an investment of $11 million will be used to build tools and resources that facilitate community engagement to implement social and emotional learning and health supports in schools that promote and improve mental health among children; to employ collective action strategies and support community partnerships to promote resilience and social emotional health in families with young children; and integrate the growing knowledge about brain science into programs, policy and systems design to improve child and family outcomes, including social emotional outcomes.
Rose Community Foundation Denver $ 1.5 million Rose Community Foundation is creating a new entity, the Colorado Early Childhood Foundation, leverage and support federal initiatives in a public-private partnership approach.
Samuel N. & Mary Castle Foundation Honolulu,
$ 2 million The investment will support teacher and school administrator training in public preschool sites, scholarships for some four-year-olds, and advocacy for early education.
Scholastic Danbury, Connecticut $ 1 million in kind Scholastic will donate preschool classroom libraries, consisting of 300 board books for ages zero to three, to each Early Head Start Grant awardee. Approximately 300 early childhood centers will receive a total of 90,000 books through this commitment. Scholastic will also offer five days of professional learning for early education providers and leaders in states that have been awarded Preschool Development Grants.
Schumann Fund for New Jersey Montclair, New Jersey $1.5 million To support early childhood systems building work related to the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant and preschool expansion. This funding will be directed at extending the impact of state and federal investments in expanding access to preschool, implementing a Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) state-wide, and coordinating services for children from birth to age eight.
Sesame Workshop’s Joan Ganz Cooney Center and New America New York City Unspecified In January 2015, Sesame Workshop’s Joan Ganz Cooney Center and New America will be unveiling a nationwide project to identify and examine the uses of technology within early learning initiatives. The new project will also produce action briefs, conduct planning and development institutes with policy leaders and highlight evaluation and research projects to inform new early learning investments and public-private partnerships.
Stranahan Foundation Toledo, Ohio $6 million The Foundation expects to invest $6 million or more in new grants over the next 3 to 4 years to: (a) support and nurture effective teaching and high quality adult/child interactions in early childhood settings; (b) make rich, impactful early learning available to more disadvantaged children; and (c) advance quality in the early education sector.
Susan A. Buffett and Partners Omaha, Nebraska $15 million This new investment will serve children and families living in two neighborhoods that are home to three of Nebraska’s four designated “high poverty zip codes”—and the two zip codes in the state with the highest percentages of young children in poverty. Inspired, in part, by compelling longitudinal data that shows Educare students outperforming their peers in third and fifth grade, Omaha Public Schools (OPS) has embarked on an ambitious preschool expansion that will eventually bring universal preschool services to all three- and four-year-old children in the district.
Televisa Foundation Mexico City, Mexico $2 million Televisa Foundation commits to promoting innovation for early childhood education in the Hispanic community by developing free and culturally responsive digital platforms related to early math and technology education for English Language Learners (ELLs), particularly focusing on low-income households.
Trust for Learning Boston $15 million To increase access to high-quality, developmentally appropriate early childhood education models for low-income and at-risk populations in the United States. In a collaborative strategy, Trust partners including the Harold Simmons Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the McCall Kulak Family Foundation and the McTeague Catalyst Fund will use this investment to dramatically increase the number of public early childhood programs using the evidence-based, time-tested Montessori approach to transform classrooms and support families in underserved communities.
Univision and Too Small To Fail Various Locations Unspecified A new collaboration between Univision, Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and Next Generation, and Vroom, an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation, is being developed to provide Hispanic parents and caregivers with positive messages focused on boosting early brain and vocabulary development among Hispanic children under age five. The partners will aim to reach Hispanic parents through more than 200 million media impressions that model and reinforce the importance of quality interactions, language-rich parenting and the benefits of bilingualism.
UPS Atlanta $5 million To help local communities address the challenge of ensuring more children are reading on grade level by the third grade. This commitment is directed towards early grade level reading initiatives conducted at the community level by United Way as part of the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading. This investment will impact nearly 100 communities across the country, enabling them to target three areas: reducing summer learning loss, reducing chronic absence, and improving the quality of early learning opportunities.
The Walt Disney Company Burbank, California $55 million As a part of the launch of Disney Imagicademy, a new, innovative learning initiative for families with children ages three to eight, Disney is donating high-quality apps and books to First Book and other nonprofit organizations over the next three years to make books and learning tools accessible to a larger number of young learners.
William Penn Foundation Philadelphia $ 11.2 million The Foundation will make new commitments in 2014 and 2015 to support their mission of expanding access to high quality preschool education in Pennsylvania.

Public Investments

Department  Program Name Amount Purpose
U.S. Department of Education Preschool Development Grants $250 million 18 States will be awarded to expand the reach of their high-quality preschool programs in over 200 high-need communities, to enroll over 33,000 additional children. Winning states include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships program $500 million 234 preliminary awards for hundreds of communities across 49 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Together, these awards will support communities as they improve and expand comprehensive early care and education for over 30,000 infants and toddlers next year.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Curbing Preschool Expulsion $4 million Early childhood mental health consultation services to prevent preschool suspension and expulsion.

Judith Fenlon
is Money & Business Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change.

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Judith Fenlon
About Judith Fenlon 165 Articles
Money & Business Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change