May 25, 2011
AFT Media Affairs
Statement by AFT President Randi Weingarten
On New Federal Funding for Early Childhood Programs
The secretaries of the U.S. Education Department and the U.S. Health and Human Services Department announced today that $500 million in funding for the federal Race to the Top program will go to early learning initiatives.
WASHINGTON—At a time when most indicators of poverty are going in the wrong direction, and the ongoing economic downturn has squeezed state and local funding for programs that young children need, this investment in early childhood programs is welcome news. Educators know that students who don’t participate in high-quality early childhood programs often start school far behind their peers—a gap that too often is never closed. Such programs provide an effective way to level the playing field for disadvantaged children in particular—helping close the school-readiness gap and the social-skills gap, and providing a powerful vehicle to help break the cycle of poverty.
The continuing economic distress for state and local budgets and for an alarming number of families makes it even more important that education funding serve all students, not just some. We wish enough funding could be made available to ensure that more children could get these services, rather than using competitive grants that force states to vie for needed resources, creating few winners and many losers—namely the children who, through no fault of their own, will not benefit from these grants.
Weingarten’s latest column (http://www.aft.org/newspubs/press/wmm/wmm_051511.cfm) in the New York Times called on the administration to allocate to early learning programs all of the $700 million in additional Race to the Top funding that Congress allowed to be used to improve early education programs for disadvantaged infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.