Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) urged support for President Obama's initiative to make early education a nationwide priority, calling the early years of a child's life critical for building a strong foundation for a child's development. Rep. Engel, a former teacher, is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"In his State of the Union address, President Obama said that children who benefit from early education programs -- such as Head Start -- grow up more likely to read better and do math at grade level, graduate, hold a steady job and build more stable families of their own. Early education programs are also instrumental in lifting children out of the poverty and aiding them in finding a path to success. I agree with the President that we must expand access to high-quality preschool to all children. We need to end the cycle of ignorance and poverty and increase their prospects for a brighter future," said Rep. Engel.
According to 2010 U.S. Census statistics, 28.5% of people in the Bronx are below the poverty level, as are 8.9% of people in Westchester County. "The Head Start program has been very successful in aiding families, enabling them to have quality child care, and allowing parents to work free from concern about their children's well-being," said Rep. Engel.
"A good education allows a child to grow into a mature productive member of society," he added.
The President's plan would focus on the following features:
Providing High-Quality Preschool for Every Child: The President is proposing a new federal-state partnership to provide all low- and moderate-income four-year old children with high-quality preschool, while also expanding these programs to reach additional children from middle class families and incentivizing full-day kindergarten policies. This investment -- financed through a cost-sharing model with states -- will help close America's school readiness gap and ensure that children have the chance to enter kindergarten ready for success.
Growing the Supply of Effective Early Learning Opportunities for Young Children:To expand high-quality early learning opportunities in the years before preschool, the President will call for a significant investment in a new Early Head Start-Child Care partnership. Competitive grants will support communities that expand the availability of Early Head Start and child care providers that can meet the highest standards of quality for infants and toddlers, serving children from birth through age 3.
Extending and Expanding Evidence-Based, Voluntary Home Visiting: Voluntary home visiting programs enable nurses, social workers, and other professionals to connect families to services and educational support that will improve a child's health, development, and ability to learn. President Obama has already committed $1.5 billion to expand home visitation to hundreds of thousands of America's most vulnerable children and families across all 50 states. The President will pursue substantial investments to expand these important programs to reach additional families in need.
"Providing the access to early education is a huge first step for New York families. The next step would be to increase assistance to afford the programs. According to 2009 figures, Child care in Westchester County exceeded $18,000/year for children two and under, $14,000 for 3-5 and $13,000 for children 6-12. Bronx numbers had the care at $16,000, $11,000 and $9,000 for the same age groups. For some, these costs are unobtainable. Those children should not be made to suffer, and we need to work together, Democrats and Republicans, federal and state governments, to make it easier for families to afford the programs. Our children deserve nothing less," added Rep. Engel.