Early Learning Push

Watch for early childhood education in President Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday.  There are rumors that he is considering a big push in early learning.

At Chicago Commons, any focus on early learning is welcome news overall.  But, there is a lingering question:  Will this create more robust support for quality early learning or will it allow state governments to serve more children by watering down quality?

One idea to consider — extend subsidies to working and middle class, but require these families to pay a significant share of the cost.  And at the same time, give special subsidies to high poverty neighborhoods that have created local educational plans/systems.  Give these neighborhoods special funding for early learning to underwrite high quality early learning centers, like what Chicago Commons.  These centers are irreplaceable and reach the highest need families.  And I, for one, am worried that the effort to extend pre-k to the middle class (while good) will actually threaten the survival of high quality centers that are focused on serving the lowest income families.