Monday, October 28, 2013
President Obama announced his intent to expand pre-k opportunities in his state of the union address earlier this year. Since then, we have seen a lot of good press. A major step was the administrations willingness/ability to convert remaining Race to the Top funds into a pre-k initiative. With that prompting, 16 states have submitted applications detailing their plans to expand pre-k. Those states include Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. This weekend, the New York Times ran a well timed op-ed by Nicholas Kristof, who argues that, while Obama has not pushed hard enough, there is reason to believe we might see universal pre-k coming to fruition. "One reason is that this is one of those rare initiatives that polls well across the spectrum, with support from 84 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans in a recent national survey. And even if the program stalls in Washington, states and localities are moving ahead — from San Antonio to Michigan." Arne Duncan told Kristof "'There’s this magical opportunity; now to get a national early education program in America," and Duncan plans to introduce a bipartisan bill before Congress this year.
At the beginning of this year, I had remarked that maybe certain portions of education presented low-hanging fruit that both sides could use to come away feeling good. Maybe, Kristof and Duncan are right. It is hard, however, to put much faith in our current political process in the short term. Then again, as Kristof points out, pre-k is such a no brainer that it may happen with or without the federal government.