U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will join Mayor William Peduto in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, August 13 to visit early learning classrooms, meet with early childhood education providers, parents and community members and hold a media availability at the Hug Me Tight Childlife Center at the Hill House Association. Following the center visit, Duncan and Peduto will participate in a Community Conversation on early learning, hosted by the city of Pittsburgh and the National League of Cities at the Hill House’s Kaufmann Center in Pittsburgh. Duncan will highlight a new grant competition to increase access to high-quality preschool, jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.
Across the country, there is tremendous unmet need for high-quality early learning programs. Only 40 percent of eligible children have access to Head Start and less than one-third of all 4-year olds in the U.S. are enrolled in state preschool programs. Studies demonstrate that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.
President Obama is committed to closing the opportunity gap and working with states and local communities to ensure high-quality early learning for every child, so that all children enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life. The 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill, passed by Congress and signed by the president, provides $250 million for states, working with high-need local communities, to develop, enhance or expand access to high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds from families at 200 percent of the federal poverty line and below. All states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are eligible to apply. Applications are due on October 14, 2014, with grants made in December.
The president’s 2015 budget request would create a federal-state partnership that would ensure universal access to high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. It also includes support for other early childhood investments as part of a cohesive system of early learning for children, beginning with prenatal care and continuing through third grade.