Five years after his first inauguration, there’s a strong case that President Obama has made early education one of his core education policy priorities. As a presidential candidate, Obama pledged that if he were elected, he would invest $10 billion on early childhood. The following year, Congress’s 2009 stimulus bill helped him make good on the pledge. Last year, in his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama proposed “working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.”
Awareness of early education issues is as high as it’s ever been. President Obama is only one prominent member in an eclectic coalition of early education advocates. Business leaders, law enforcement, retired military leaders, charitable foundations, and Nobel-winning economists have made novel new arguments for early education investments. Lawmakers in states red, blue, and purple have reignited interest in existing programs and sometimes pushed for new investments.
But have we actually expanded preschool to more kids? Not really. Have we made progress at closing achievement gaps between young students from different socioeconomic backgrounds? No. Have we sustained funding commitments after the one-time stimulus boost in 2009? Far from it.