Clin­ton calls for preschool for all

Her po­si­tion could have bi­par­ti­san ap­peal, but it’s not backed by all ex­perts.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Evan Halper evan.halper@latimes.com

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.”

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