Thank you, Steve, for that introduction.
As everyone has pointed out, this year's report highlights the urgency of the historic investment in early education that the President called for in his State of the Union.
We have abundant evidence that high quality early education has a huge payoff down the road, not just in improved academic outcomes but also in improved productivity and lower costs in public assistance programs and the criminal justice system.
As a former Governor, I know the budget challenges states can face. But investments that have such a huge payoff for the future should be the last place we cut, not the first.
That said, even if states do more -- and I believe they should -- there is a role for the federal government to help support these investments in our nation's children.
That's why we'll continue to work with Congress to pursue the proposal the President put forward in his budget, a proposal that, by the way, is fully paid for.
Today's report also emphasizes that when it comes to early education, quality matters -- and that quality means more than just learning numbers and ABCs.
It also means ensuring kids get the nutrition and preventive care they need to stay healthy, building social and emotional skills, and engaging parents to make sure they're nurturing their children's development.
Over the last four years, we've pursued a historic effort to raise the bar on quality in early education. And we've had incredible coordination with the Department of Education.
That includes the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge. But it also a range of efforts in the Head Start program, including sharing best practices on training and curricula and making funding competitive so money goes to the strongest centers.
As the report shows, we have more work to do in this area too. But we've come a long way in the last decade. And we're committed to doing what we can, not just to expand access to early education programs, but to make sure those programs adhere to the highest quality standards.
Thank you. And now I'd like to turn it over to Secretary Duncan, who has been my close ally and partner as our departments continue to work collaboratively to change the face of early childhood programs in this country.