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Obama's early-childhood education plan lauded by L.A. educators

April 11, 2013|By Dalina Castellanos
  • Marisol Paez, 4, high-fives her classmates at Valley View Elementary Preschool in Nuevo, Calif., in 2006. Valley View was the state's first universal preschool, which means all students can attend, regardless of income.
Marisol Paez, 4, high-fives her classmates at Valley View Elementary Preschool… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Using a method similar to California's to fund early-childhood education, President Obama is proposing a tax hike for his "Preschool for All" plan in the budget presented to Congress.

The proposed 94-cent hike on cigarettes is projected to generate more than $78 billion over 10 years.

Some Los Angeles-based early-childhood education providers praised the proposal for its plan to fund education for preschoolers across all types of socioeconomic backgrounds.

“The president’s plan falls right in line with what [Los Angeles Universal Preschool] has been doing for nearly a decade, and the new budget is a tremendous step forward for our nation’s children,” said Celia C. Ayala, chief executive for LAUP.

Established by First 5 LA, which receives funding through the voter-approved tobacco tax initiative Proposition 10, LAUP has provided more than 60,000 children with free or low-cost preschool for the last nine years.

The president's plan would extend programs such as Early Head Start, home visitation services for at-risk families and universal preschool.

The proposal "is an important affirmation of the educational, social and economic benefits associated with quality early learning programs," said First 5 LA Director Kim Belshe.

"We have long known that investment in quality early childhood education boosts our kids’ success in school and has even more long-term benefits," she said.

A Georgetown University report showed that by 2018, 63% of job openings will require workers with a higher education and that children who attend quality preschool are twice as likely to attend college.

The president's budget reflects the comments during his State of the Union address that support early-childhood education, though implementing a nationwide program may be difficult.

"It's complicated for the federal government because there's a spectrum of readiness across the states," said Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Fund.

"Some states have been doing it successfully, like New Jersey, but there are others that don’t have any program in place," Perry said.

The funds will be allocated to states and distributed to local school districts and other preschool service providers.

The Department of Education also announced it would award $750 million to states to strengthen their early learning initiatives.

"It will do some good, but will never cover all the needs," Perry said.

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Twitter: @dalinac

dalina.castellanos@latimes.com

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