Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a former preschool teacher, will unveil a major push for expanding early education in a speech at the Center for American Progress Tuesday.

She will outline a bill she is drafting along with Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) that mirrors an Obama administration proposal to increase preschool access.

"In recent years, our budget debate has been too focused on averting artificial crises," Murray said in prepared remarks. “This has made it extremely difficult to focus on policies that confront real, long-term problems, like maintaining our leadership in the 21st century and continuing to grow our middle class. Expanding access to quality early childhood education is exactly this kind of policy.”

Murray will stress the potential of early childhood education to close achievement gaps that start early in life. “Just a few weeks ago, a teacher in Washington state told me that while some of her students are practicing writing their names on their work, others still need to learn how to hold a pencil," Murray said. "So those children are, even at a very early age, already playing catch-up.”
 
Research has shown profound neural developmental benefits of high-quality preschools. Still, Murray said the U.S. hasn't done much to expand preschools. "We have no national strategy to increase participation in early childhood education," she said "Our country ranks 28th in the proportion of 4-year-olds enrolled in prekindergarten, and 25th in public funding for early learning."

Murray's push comes amid advocacy from the Obama administration in the issue. As HuffPost was first to report, Obama is seeking to create a public pre-K program that would partner with states to fund early education slots for all low-income five-year-olds over the next 10 years. Obama proposed the initiative during his 2013 State of the Union address, and the administration has since said it would seek to fund it with a tobacco tax increase.

Since then, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been barnstorming Republican states, pitching the plan to governors friendly to pre-K. But there is little hope for the plan in the tough economy and the toxic Congress. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who sits on the House education committee, told HuffPost that he can't see the House creating a new, expansive program due to the realities of the current sequestration cuts and Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) snip-happy budget proposal. "It'll come down to a resource question," he said in an interview.

Murray said she realizes preschool expansion is a long shot. "I think we also appreciate how difficult it’s going to be to get some of my colleagues on board," she said in her prepared remarks. "I’m ready to get to work -- but I’m going to need your help."

Her plan reflects the Obama proposal. It is based on the principles that all students need preschool access; that "highly-trained teachers" and small class sizes are key; and that the programs would be tied to K-12 schools. Her proposals have garnered positive statements from groups such as the National Women's Law Center and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

“Recently as we’ve moved from one artificial crisis to the next, we’ve been making the wrong choice," Murray said in her remarks. "We’ve let short-term thinking get in the way of long-term progress. To make the right choice, our country’s challenges, rather than arbitrary deadlines, must guide our decision-making."

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Alabama State Capitol (Montgomery, Ala.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

  • Alaska State Capitol (Juneau, Alaska)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Miller)

  • Arizona State Capitol (Phoenix)

    Pictured on Friday, April 23, 2010. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

  • Arkansas State Capitol (Little Rock, Ark.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

  • California State Capitol (Sacramento, Calif.)

    Pictured on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2006. (Photo by David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

  • Colorado State Capitol (Denver)

    Pictured on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2006. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

  • Connecticut State Capitol (Hartford, Conn.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 1999. (AP Photo/Bob Child)

  • Delaware State Capitol (Dover, Del.)

  • Florida State Capitol (Tallahassee, Fla.)

    Pictured on Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

  • Georgia State Capitol (Atlanta)

    Pictured on Tuesday, November 13, 2007. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

  • Hawaii State Capitol (Honolulu)

  • Idaho State Capitol (Boise, Idaho)

    Pictured on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Illinois State Capitol (Springfield, Ill.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • Indiana State Capitol (Indianapolis)

    Pictured on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

  • Iowa State Capitol (Des Moines, Iowa)

    Pictured on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Kansas State Capitol (Topeka, Kan.)

    Pictured on Thursday, April 15, 2010. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • Kentucky State Capitol (Frankfort, Ky.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, April 12, 2006. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

  • Louisiana State Capitol (Baton Rouge, La.)

    Pictured on Monday, Jan. 14, 2008. (Matthew HINTON/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Maine State Capitol (Augusta, Me.)

    Pictured on Monday, Oct. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

  • Maryland State House (Annapolis, Md.)

    (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

  • Massachusetts State House (Boston)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

  • Michigan State Capitol (Lansing, Mich.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, April 13, 2011. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

  • Minnesota State Capitol (St. Paul, Minn.)

    Pictured on Friday, July 1, 2011. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

  • Mississippi State Capitol (Jackson, Miss.)

    Pictured on Thursday, June 10, 1999. (AP Photo/Rogelio Solis)

  • Missouri State Capitol (Jefferson City, Mo.)

    Pictured on Friday, Oct. 16, 2000. (Photo credit should read ORLIN WAGNER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Montana State Capitol (Helena, Mont.)

  • Nebraska State Capitol (Lincoln, Neb.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 1998. (AP Photo/S.E. McKee)

  • Nevada State Capitol (Carson City, Nev.)

  • New Hampshire State House (Concord, N.H.)

    Pictured on Friday, Dec. 28, 2001. (Todd Warshaw//Pool/Getty Images

  • New Jersey State House (Trenton, N.J.)

    Pictured on Friday, Aug. 13, 2004. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

  • New Mexico State Capitol (Santa Fe, N.M.)

  • New York State Capitol (Albany, N.Y.)

    Pictured on Sunday, March 16, 2008. (Photo by Daniel Barry/Getty Images)

  • North Carolina State Capitol (Raleigh, N.C.)

    Pictured in 1930. (AP Photo)

  • North Dakota State Capitol (Bismarck, N.D.)

    Pictured on Thursday, April 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Dale Wetzel)

  • Ohio Statehouse (Columbus, Ohio)

    Pictured on Tuesday, March 8, 2011. (Photo by Mike Munden/Getty Images)

  • Oklahoma State Capitol (Oklahoma City)

    Pictured on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

  • Oregon State Capitol (Salem, Ore.)

    Pictured on Friday, May 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, file)

  • Pennsylvania State Capitol (Harrisburg, Pa.)

    Pictured on Thursday, June 28, 2012. (BRIGITTE DUSSEAU/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Rhode Island State House (Providence, R.I.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 1945. (AP Photo)

  • South Carolina State House (Columbia, S.C.)

    Pictured on Monday, Jan. 21, 2008. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

  • South Dakota State Capitol (Pierre, S.D.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Doug Dreyer)

  • Tennessee State Capitol (Nashville, Tenn.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 1941. (AP Photo)

  • Texas State Capitol (Austin, Texas)

    Pictured on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011. (MIRA OBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Utah State Capitol (Salt Lake City)

    Pictured on Thursday, March 15, 2001. (GEORGE FREY/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Vermont State House (Montpelier, Vt.)

    Pictured on April 9, 1953. (AP Photo/Francis C. Curtin)

  • Virginia State Capitol (Richmond, Va.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, May 2, 2007. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

  • Washington State Capitol (Olympia, Wash.)

    Pictured on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

  • West Virginia State Capitol (Charleston, W.V.)

    Pictured on July 2, 2010. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Wisconsin State Capitol (Madison, Wis.)

    Pictured on Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Wyoming State Capitol (Cheyenne, Wyo.)

    Pictured on Tuesday, March 6, 2001. (Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)