Obama Visits Decatur Early Childhood Learning Center

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    Fresh off his invigorating State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Obama visits metro Atlanta Thursday to amplify his strategies to create jobs and strengthen the nation’s middle class.

    “We have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong,” Obama said in an hour-long address to a joint session of Congress and a television audience of millions.

    Education figured in Obama’s plans to boost American competitiveness in the global economy. In his speech he proposed that the federal government should help states provide pre-school for all 4-year-olds. Officials did not provide a cost for the pre-school programs but said the government would provide financial incentives to help states.

    To underline this proposal, Obama visited the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur. College Heights offers early learning programs for infant, toddler, preschool, and pre-kindergarten students ”through a unique partnership with City Schools of Decatur, and Partners for Community Action Inc. (Head Start Program),” according to its website. College Heights’ website says the school serves 326 children.

    A report from the AJC notes that the state was considered far ahead of its time two decades ago when it used lottery funds to launch
    a statewide pre-kindergarten program. In recent years, though, flattening lottery revenues and increasing enrollment have forced the state to reduce pre-kindergarten schedules and increase class sizes.

    “Our pre-k program is still a national example. But certainly we can do more to increase quality and access,” said Mindy Binderman, the executive director of Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, an advocacy group. “We have to be sure we don’t rest on our laurels.”

    Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, said the president’s expected proposal has the potential to offer “a remarkable boost” to efforts to provide educational and economic opportunities for all.

    “Well-designed preschool education programs could close the entire achievement gap between children from low- and high-income families at school entry and as much as half the gap permanently,” Barnett said.

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