Clinton calls for preschool for all
Her position could have bipartisan appeal, but it’s not backed by all experts.
ROCHESTER, N.H. — Hillary Rodham Clinton put early childhood education at the front of her agenda Monday, pledging that as president she would work to make preschool available and affordable for every American child.
Clinton, who started her career as an advocate for the Children’s Defense Fund, has long lobbied for expanding the availability of child care and preschool. At a daycare center here, she outlined proposals, including a substantial boost in federal spending to help cover the cost of schooling for 4-yearolds from low-income families.
In backing expanded preschool, Clinton is advocating a policy that is popular with liberal Democrats even though some experts warn that the benefits have been oversold. President Obama rolled out a similar proposal in 2013, and Clinton said she would build on that plan if voters sent her to the White House.
“It’s time we realize once and for all that investing in our children is one of the best investments our country can make,” Clinton said, according to a transcript of her remarks released by the campaign. The event was partially closed to reporters.
In addition to its attraction to the liberal voters Clinton is wooing in the Democratic primaries, expanding preschool potentially has bipartisan appeal. Many states that have taken the lead in funding universal preschool have Republican governors, with Oklahoma being one of the most cited nationally.
That state is “about as red a state as you can get,” Clinton said. “But they have figured it out, the government and business leaders and families … that this is a smart investment for them.”
As she praised GOP governors who have expanded such programs, Clinton took a swipe at congressional Republicans who have defeated proposals for expanding federal support.
“Their budget puts at risk one of the most effective investments for our youngest children, Early Head Start,” she said.
Experts are divided on how much such programs really give children a lasting jump-start in learning. Obama’s claim, for example, that every dollar spent on highquality early education would “save more than $7 later on” was dismissed by Russ Whitehurst, director of the Brown Center for Education Policy at Washington’s Brookings Institution.
During a congressional hearing last year, Whitehurst advised lawmakers when they hear that number to “swallow with a grain of salt, or not at all.”
Whitehurst, a former Head Start official who generally supports preschool, said in a blog post that supporters of the Obama program, “including some academics who are way out in front of what the evidence says and know it, have turned a blind eye to the mixed and conf licting nature of research findings on the impact of pre-K for 4-year-olds.”