Obama to unveil $1B early childhood education funding

President Obama on Wednesday will unveil over $1 billion in new federal and private funding for early childhood education, as the White House again looks to rally legislative support for the president’s universal pre-K initiative.

The announcement at a White House summit on the topic will include over $750 million in new federal grants awarded to states to expand their pre-K programs. 


Two-thirds of that funding will provide early care and education programs for over 30,000 infants and toddlers across almost every state, while an additional $250 million will be awarded to 18 states to expand the reach of their preschool programs. Those awards are expected to enroll an additional 33,000 children in preschool.

Separately, corporate leaders like the Walt Disney Company, the Sesame Workshop, and LEGO will announce $330 million in new commitments and donations. The awards will underwrite charity programs and supplies for young children. Additional donations will come from the foundation named for billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s first wife, as well as the charitable organization founded by Commerce Secretary and Hyatt Hotel heiress Penny PritzkerPenny Sue PritzkerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Biden's new campaign ad features Obama speech praising him Obama Commerce secretary backs Biden's 2020 bid MORE’s brother.

But top Obama Administration officials admit that the announcements are dwarfed by the president’s ambitions of offering universal pre-school to all 4-year-olds.

“The fact is like three in 10 four year olds have access to state funded programs, which means frankly we are not close,” said Education Secretary Arne DuncanArne Starkey DuncanStripping opportunity from DC's children Catherine Lhamon will make our schools better, fairer, and more just Providing the transparency parents deserve MORE in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “We are not close to where we need to be.”

Duncan said he is haunted by “the huge unmet need” and that he hoped lawmakers would take up the president’s $75 billion proposal to partner with states to offer low and moderate income families with high quality preschool. That proposal has gained little traction on Capitol Hill, despite support from some Republican governors.

“We really, really need Congress to step up in a bipartisan way and help take to scale what works,” Duncan said.

Looking to woo Republican lawmakers, Duncan said the administration was not interested in federal mandates or a “top-down approach.”

“We have so far to go. Again relative to the rest of the world that we have so far to go, it’s a real shame, it’s a real travesty,” Duncan added.

Cecelia Munoz, the director of the White House’s domestic policy council, said the president did not want the issue to become a partisan issue and that the administration wanted to build a “coalition of the willing” to support the plan.

“We’re not seeing this in a political context, we’re seeing this in the context of this being really great value for the dollars we’re spending,” Munoz said.