Education

Hillary Clinton Officially Endorses Universal Pre-K

CREDIT: Steven Senne, AP

Hillary Clinton takes a campaign stop at a Flag Day dinner.

Hillary Clinton introduced a universal pre-K plan at a campaign event in Rochester, New Hampshire on Tuesday. Clinton’s proposal would make high-quality preschool accessible to more kids from low-income families by increasing federal funding for states that make preschool available to all 4 year olds. She plans to make preschool available to every 4 year old in the U.S. in 10 years.

During her speech, Clinton noted that pre-K attendance for 3 year olds and 4 year olds went up in the 1990s but has made little progress since 2001.

“But starting in 2001 there’s been almost no progress. Only 55 percent of all of America’s 3 and 4 year olds are enrolled in preschool. And meanwhile, many of our economic competitors are racing ahead. They are making big investments in preschool and early education,” Clinton said.

A 2003 paper, “The Effects of Expanded Public Funding for Early Education and Child Care on Preschool Enrollment in the 1990s,” concluded that increases in public funding explain as much as half of the increase in preschool attendance during that decade, or 8 to 11 percentage points.

The United States placed 26th for the percent of kids enrolled in preschool and 21st on the share of gross domestic product spent on preschool, according to a 2013 Center for American Progress analysis of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries’ preschool data.

Her proposal would build on the President Barack Obama’s Preschool for All proposal, which was introduced in 2013 and focused on a full-day program. That legislation has not advanced through Congress, and although it has not approved universal access, Congress has approved other early childhood proposals that were part of the plan. Obama’s proposal aimed to add $1 billion in new funding to Head Start and triple the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit for families but many Republicans weren’t interested in raising tobacco taxes to pay for those programs.

The president’s proposal was estimated to cost $75 billion over a decade. Though Clinton did not offer an estimate of how much all her plan would cost, she said she would double the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership grant program and double the investment in Early Head Start.

The president’s budget for fiscal year 2016 requests $10.1 billion for Head Start, a $1.5 billion increase over the 2015 fiscal year, an increase of $150 million for Early Head Start and a $650 million increase in Early Child Care Partnerships. Federal Head Start funding fell recently from 7.2 billion in 2009 to $6.4 billion in 2014.

When asked what Clinton could do to raise wages in order to retain good teachers and child care workers, Clinton said she would offer a middle class tax cut that would help parents pay for quality childcare.

“So you have a perfect storm where we need quality childcare, but how are we going to get the people with the continuity so that the experience is there to be able to deliver that childcare when parents can’t go any further… [childcare workers would] rather go be a food server for the money, but not for the reward that they have gotten from taking care of kids,” Clinton said. “They’re making $8 to 9 to 10 an hour for often 12-hour days. And that is just a huge burden on them and their families. And so then you have a downward spiral.”

Clinton also discussed inequities in the public school system, embracing different methods of education for children with ADHD and other learning disabilities, introducing longer school years and ensuring all kids have access to extracurricular activities.