President Obama concluded his State of the Union address last week by claiming that the state of our union is strong. But there was at least one area where he did not have much encouraging news—the state of our education system. In fact, the President opened his remarks on education by pointing out some alarming statistics.
Over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education that goes beyond a high school education. And yet, as many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school. The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations. America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree.
And, while President Obama called the Race to the Top, “the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation,” and provided a powerful acknowledgment of the important and often under-appreciated role of teachers, there was at least one education topic that was noticeably absent in his remarks—early childhood education.
Previously President Obama and Secretary Duncan have proclaimed the importance of early childhood education as providing the essential foundation for school readiness and long term education and social success. Previously both have championed the Early Learning Challenge Grants in an effort to promote innovation and excellence for programs serving our youngest children. But in this critical address to the Congress and our nation there was no mention of early childhood education.
Efforts to provide quality programs for young children will face financial challenges as funding is under siege given the budget shortfalls facing the states and the economic uncertainty facing many families with young children.
So, let us hope that early childhood education is not lost among all the other priorities facing our country, for it is the best investment that can be made in our children and our nation.