Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center


President's FY15 Budget Proposal Highlights Early Learning

There is good news for young children in President Obama’s budget proposal. The President demonstrates his continued commitment to ensuring children have a strong start by proposing significant new investments in early learning. These investments would support more high-quality options for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children. The investments would be funded through base discretionary and mandatory funding as well as through a new Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative. This initiative would be supported by savings from changes to mandatory programs and the reduction of a tax break for wealthy individuals, with the additional funding split between defense and domestic programs, including early learning programs. The President’s budget would also fund a major expansion of high-quality preschool programs for four-year-olds through a tobacco tax increase, as proposed in last year’s budget. Read more »

A Strong Start: Act on PreK

Last night in his State of the Union Address, the President recommitted to ensuring that all low- and moderate-income four-year-olds have access to a high-quality prekindergarten experience. This is an important goal to keep on the front burner. And it is one that is widely shared. 

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans believe that ensuring all children have access to preschool education is an absolute priority this year, according to a new poll [PDF]. These poll results are consistent with four earlier polls showing that an overwhelming majority of the American public agree that better early childhood education is very important as is public funding to provide children with access to these programs. This support held among both parents and non-parents, and both Democrats and Republicans. 

High-quality early education is also supported by a growing number of state and local elected officials from both parties. Already this year, New York City Mayor De Blasio and New York Governor Cuomo have offered plans to expand prekindergarten. California's Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is heading a legislative effort to extend preschool to all of the state's four-year-olds. Indiana Governor Mike Pence is championing a new state investment in preschool. Other governors have made the expansion of preschool a focus of their state agendas as well. 

Support for preschool is bolstered by research showing that high-quality preschool is one of the key strategies to help close the achievement gap and reduce inequality in our country. Read more »

Senator Gillibrand’s American Opportunity Agenda Would Help Women – and the Economy – Prosper

Though the government shutdown is over and the threat of default has passed (for now), Congress remains wildly unpopular; many doubt that our elected representatives are as concerned with making the country work for ordinary Americans as they are with scoring political points. It doesn’t help that the latest jobs numbers show an economic recovery that is still painfully slow and leaving large numbers of people behind.

But all is not lost. Some Members of Congress are calling attention to the legislative steps that are needed to spur a strong, shared recovery – and recognizing the critical role of women in driving the economy forward. For example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is championing a new economic agenda for women and families (titled “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds”), which includes measures to improve pay, combat employment discrimination, help workers balance their jobs and family responsibilities, and expand access to high-quality, affordable child care. And on the Senate side, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently unveiled her “American Opportunity Agenda,” which aims to help families achieve economic security through five key policy solutions:

  1. Providing paid family and medical leave through a new fund to which both employees and employers would contribute, modeled after successful state programs in New Jersey and California.
  2. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, raising the minimum cash wage for tipped workers to 70 percent of the minimum wage, and indexing both wages to keep pace with inflation, as proposed by the Fair Minimum Wage Act.

#PreKForAll: Transform a Twitter Trend into a Reality

The hashtag “#PreKForAll” was trending on Twitter nationwide less than 30 minutes into the National Women’s Law Center’s “Tweetchat,” which encouraged conversation about the importance of high-quality early learning opportunities. The chat was held as part of this week’s national Early Learning Day of Action, which aimed to generate support for increased investments in these programs.

Senators Patty Murray, Dick Durbin and Kirsten Gillibrand, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Paulette Aniskoff all joined the conversation that would continue for hours beyond its allotted one-hour time slot. Read more »

Giving Early Education the Attention It Deserves

At a recent forum held by the Center for American Progress, New York Times columnist Gail Collins said, “If there was going to be a cause that would hook the general needs of society with the most pressing needs of women with something that virtually everyone in the universe agrees with….it would be early childhood education.” Collins noted that early education addresses numerous challenges, from income inequality to parents’ need for child care while they work. Yet she also said that early education isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Read more »

#PreKForAll: So All Children Have the Chance to Thrive

I am a proud aunt to a very precocious kindergartener. I remember when she was three and she shocked the whole family with her grasp of complex verb tenses. And over Memorial Day, she astonished me with her adept reading of Amelia Bedelia.

Her language and reading skills are extremely impressive and so are her pre-math, writing, and interpersonal skills. I’d like to think it’s solely because she shares some of my genetic material, but I know her wonderful prekindergarten experiences deserve credit too.

My niece's artwork

Starting as an infant, my niece was exposed to rich early childhood experiences, with her parents and extended family, at her family child care home, and then at preschool. She listened to stories, sang songs, played games, colored pictures, and the list goes on.

Every child should have the opportunity to thrive in a stimulating preschool classroom filled with playmates, art supplies, books, blocks, and caring teachers. But there are not enough publicly financed slots for all the children who need them, and for most families, the cost of private preschool is prohibitive. Only 43 percent of 3 and 4 year olds with family incomes below $20,000 per year are enrolled in preschool, compared to 65 percent of 3 and 4 year olds with family incomes at or above $75,000 per year. Read more »

Help Our Young Children Smile

Young children love a good time and clamor to go to the local carnival. They are eager to ride the merry-go-round and hop on the ferris wheel. They want to eat their fill of cotton candy and candy corn, and have their parents play games to win them a stuffed teddy bear.

Today we are holding a different kind of carnival for our children. Adults across the country who care about a better future for our children are blogging to help give them more opportunities for high-quality early education. I am excited to join this “blog carnival” with so many others who understand that high-quality early learning is a key to keeping the smile on these young children’s sweet faces. Read more »

The Jet Story

“This is a jet. It is a tin jet. The tin jet is big.”

I know, it sounds pretty boring, right? But to me, these are VERY exciting words. These are words that my son just started reading. On his own. My son, who is 5 years old and has not been to kindergarten yet (he will start in the fall), is now reading and loving it. And I love watching his unbridled joy as he figures out, all by himself, what the words on the page say.

Now, I cannot taking credit for teaching him how to read (who has time?), and I am not saying he’s a child prodigy. Sure, we have been reading to him since he was a baby, but what makes all the difference is that he went to preschool. Read more »

Governors and State Education Commissioners Highlight the Role of Early Education in Improving Third Grade Reading

Yesterday morning’s breakfast forum, hosted by the Washington Post, brought together governors and education commissioners from several states to raise awareness of the importance of reading well by the third grade. Multiple studies show that high-quality early education programs lead to higher reading achievement, in addition to numerous other benefits (Carolina Abecedarian ProjectChicago Child-Parent Centers [PDF], and High/Scope Perry Preschool [PDF]). Several of the participants, including Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Washington State Superintendent Randy Dorn, and Maryland State Superintendent Lillian Lowry, acknowledged this powerful evidence and the important role that early learning opportunities play in providing for successful literacy growth. High-quality early childhood education was referred to as a “game changer,” an “effective effort to improve reading,” and a way to “success[fully] narrow the achievement gap.” Read more »

Let’s Give Our Kids that Chance!

Growing up with an Asian family background, I was very fond of the legend of Mencius’ mother, who moved three times to find a good place to raise her child. Her strategy clearly was successful, because Mencius went on to become a great philosopher. The story underlines the importance of the environment in which a child develops. President Obama, recognizing the essential role of children’s environments in their learning and growth, has proposed a significant investment in early learning to ensure children have positive experiences in their first years of life, both in and out of the home.

I know how critical the early years are for learning from my own experiences learning different languages. I was born to a mixed nationality family (Vietnamese and Chinese) and later studied abroad in New Zealand and now in America. According to my grandmother, at the age of three, I spoke Chinese so well that the neighbors thought that I was born and raised in China. I continued to speak Chinese at home while speaking Vietnamese at school without any struggle. Having learned both languages early in life, I did not have any difficulty in shifting back and forth between the two. In contrast, learning English in secondary school was not a piece of cake for me.

Even now, while I am sitting here and writing this blog, I am still struggling. Read more »