News and analysis
December 10, 2014

Obama to Announce $1-Billion in Grants for Preschool Education

President Obama plans to announce today a $1-billion commitment on the part of government, philanthropy, and businesses to develop and expand preschool programs.

As part of the public-private campaign, called Invest in US, the federal government will offer $726-million to expand the Preschool Development Grants and Early Head Start–Child Care programs. Foundations, companies, and individuals will provide $330-million in new money.

About 68,000 additional children will receive public preschool education as a result of the new commitment, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. Currently, only three in 10 children receive early-childhood schooling.

"We must give our babies the best start possible," he said.

The First Five Years Fund, which supports preschool care and research, will run Invest in US. The effort will seek to link grant makers to programs across the country that are proven successes and aggregate data on how best to provide early childhood care.

At its launch, the effort has received commitments from several private participants, including $55-million in books and computer applications from the Walt Disney Company, $25-million from the Pritzker Family Foundation, $20-million from the Kresge Foundation, and $5-million from the LEGO Foundation.

The combination of government grants and private support of early childhood education follows a similar partnership, My Brother’s Keeper, announced this year, that attracted about $200-million in commitments to programs that aim to improve the lives of young male minorities.

According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, children that begin schooling early are likely to earn at least 1.2 percent more as adults, and the nation’s gross domestic product could increase by nearly half a percent.

Given a push from private philanthropy, the programs are likely to continue to grow, predicted Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund.

"Voters are willing to spend now in order to reap later economic benefits from early childhood education," she said.

Dig deeper: Read more about philanthropic efforts to promote preschool education.

Send an e-mail to Alex Daniels.