Early Learning Event with Secretary Duncan

By:  Kathleen Sebelius
Date: March 1, 2013
Location: Takoma Park, MD

Good morning. I want to start by acknowledging Secretary Duncan for his outstanding partnership. America's children could not have a more passionate, committed, and energetic advocate than Secretary Duncan.

And though he couldn't be here today, I also want to acknowledge Congressman Hoyer who has been such a great leader on early education here in Maryland and across the country, particularly in the establishment of the Judy Centers named after his late wife.

As Secretary Duncan noted, we just had a great visit with two classrooms that serve as wonderful examples of what investments in early learning can mean for our children.

The kids at Rolling Terrace Elementary--and kids across the country who benefit from early learning programs--aren't just gaining an academic foundation. They're also gaining emotional skills. They're learning how to interact with others. They're benefitting from services that help the whole family.

As any parent knows, the first few years of a child's life are critical. That's when some of the most important brain development takes place. And we've seen evidence that when we invest in education during these early years, the benefits can last a lifetime.

Kids who attend high-quality early learning and pre-school programs are more likely to do well in school. They're more likely to secure a good job down the road. And they're more likely to maintain successful careers long-term.

These programs benefit all of us. We all gain when our country has a stronger, more productive workforce, lower crime rates, and less need for public assistance.

That's why our administration has made historic investments in programs that help put more children on the path to opportunity. We've worked to strengthen critical programs like Head Start, with more accountability and new training programs to help spread best practices.

And as you just heard from Secretary Duncan, the President has put forward a plan that would build on these efforts by making high quality pre-school available to every child in America.

Of course, children's needs begin even earlier than pre-school. That's why we're also launching a new Head Start-Child Care partnership to expand the availability of high quality early learning opportunities for infants and toddlers. And it's why we're expanding home visiting programs that provide parents with the resources they need to raise healthy, thriving children.

All of these efforts recognize that we have a moral and economic imperative to ensure that no child has already fallen behind by the first day of kindergarten.

That's why the last thing we can afford right now is the self-inflicted wound that would occur if the blunt, arbitrary cuts that Congress allowed to go into effect through sequestration are not reversed. In addition to the cuts to K through 12 education, up to 70,000 young children could see their access to Head Start and Early Head Start services eliminated, and the families of up to 30,000 low-income children could lose their child care subsidies. That's up to 100,000 American kids whose futures could be jeopardized.

If we want to ensure the long-term prosperity of our country, we shouldn't be cutting back on programs like the one we just visited, which deliver a huge payoff down the road. We should be expanding them. And that's what this administration is committed to doing.

Thank you.

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