POLITICS
12/02/2013 10:23 am ET Updated Dec 02, 2013

Basically Everyone Wants To Expand Preschool Options Now... Except For One Group Of People

Who would want to deny children the opportunity to attend preschool and get a head start on their education? No one, really.

Most people think it’s a good idea for kids from low- and moderate-income families to have access to subsidized or free early education programs. In fact, they think it should happen soon. But Republicans serving in Congress don't seem interested in enacting a plan that does as much, at least not in the immediate future.

Below we have compiled a list of the types of people who not only want there to be expanded access to preschool around the country, but want it now. (Chances are you know someone who falls into one of these categories.)

  • Police Chiefs
    Shutterstock
    Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nonprofit organization that consists of thousands of police chiefs, released a report last year advocating for a system that would expand nationwide access to high-quality preschool. The report, titled "I'm The Guy You Pay Later," says that an expanded preschool system would save the country $75 billion over the course of 10 years by spurring lower rates of incarceration.
  • Business Leaders
    AP
    More than 300 national business leaders signed an open letter to Congress and the White House in May 2013, expressing support for further investments in early childhood education.

    “Currently, more than 90 percent of our education dollars are spent after age 5, yet 85 percent of a child’s core brain structure is developed before age 5. This should have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with good business decisions,” James M. Zimmerman, retired CEO of Macy’s Inc., said in a press release regarding the letter.

    Major organizations like Goldman Sachs have started directly investing in preschool. This past summer, the banking firm announced that it would join forces with several other organizations to jointly invest $7 million to finance The Utah High Quality Preschool Program. (Pictured above is Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.)
  • Celebrity Moms
    Getty Images
    Celebrity mom Jennifer Garner lent her star power to the pre-K cause when she went to Washington in early November to promote "The Strong Start for America's Children Act," which contains several proposals to help expand access to preschools. "We are letting brains go to waste," Garner said at an event introducing the legislation to Congress. "The playing field is not level."
  • Former Secretaries of State
    WikiMedia
    Earlier this year, the Clinton Foundation partnered with Next Generation, a strategic policy and communications organization, to launch "Too Small To Fail," an initiative that promotes research around early childhood development and early childhood education. In an op-ed about the initiative, Hillary Clinton wrote about her desire to close the word gap that exists between low-income and middle-class children, saying that "all our kids deserve the chance to start life on an equal playing field."
  • Kid President
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2Qn9UkUt7w#t=21
    Is voting on an issue even necessary when it has Kid President's support? Kid President and his peers stumped for education issues like preschool back in June. In a video for the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign, the young leader points out that, "not all kids have the same opportunities to learn." Another child in the video makes the case that "[children] need to go to preschool so we can start reading in Kindergarten."
  • Current Presidents
    AP
    President Barack Obama has made a major push to expand access to high-quality early childhood education during his second term, calling on Congress during his 2013 State of the Union to pass a plan that "[makes] sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.”

    Since that time, the president has floated a "Preschool For All" plan, which would provide free preschool to low- and moderate-income families through a tax hike on tobacco products. This plan was recently put into legislation form with the unveiling of "The Strong Start for America's Children Act," which was co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.).

    "Let's make it a national priority to give every child access to a high-quality early education," Obama said while visiting a Georgia early education center in February. "Let's give our kids that chance."
  • Military Officers
    WikiMedia:
    In June 2013, Mission Readiness, a nonpartisan national security organization of retired senior military officers, released a report advocating for expanded high-quality early education programs. The report, titled "A Commitment to Pre-Kindergarten Is A Commitment to National Security" argued that expanding pre-kindergarten programs would improve our nation's military and save the country billions of dollars.
  • Republican Governors
    WikiMedia
    On one of the few issues that can still drum up bipartisan support, politicians from both parties are strong advocates of early childhood education. A number of Republican governors, including Rick Snyder of Michigan (pictured), Mike Pence of Indiana and Robert Bentley of Alabama have supported plans to expand early education access in their states.

    “It’s one of the only social programs that’s come up in a really long time where there doesn’t seem to be vehement opposition,” Kris Perry, executive director of early education nonprofit First Five Years Fund, told The Washington Post. “Other big questions about health care, gun safety -- when they’re introduced, there’s a lot of controversy. What’s nice about early childhood education is there are a lot of Republican governors who do support it. That gives us a chance to create bipartisan support.”

    However, it is important to note that some Republican governors are not willing to go out on too much of a limb in support of the pre-K cause. According to the Washington Post, when Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked Republican governors with a history of supporting pre-K to persuade GOP lawmakers to back a federal plan, some were less than willing.
  • Democratic Governors
    Getty Images
    Democratic governors across the country. including Hawaii's Neil Abercrombie, Delaware's Jack Markell (pictured) and Connecticut's Dannel Malloy, have advocated for expanding access to preschool in their states.
  • Democratic Congresspeople (And Republican Rep. Richard Hanna)
    AP
    Earlier this month, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.) sponsored new bills that would legislate President Barack Obama's plan to dramatically increase access to preschool across the country, called "The Strong Start for America's Children Act." While a number of Democratic Congress people have voiced their support for the bills, Hanna remains the only Republican congressman to have backed the legislation, which does not specify a source of funding.

    Instead, a number of Republican Congress members have voiced concerns about how much implementation of the bill would cost. Without Republican congressional support, the legislation is unlikely to pass.

    "We can all agree on the importance of ensuring children have the foundation necessary to succeed in school and in life," Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), who chairs the House education committee, said in a statement. "However, before investing in new federal early childhood initiatives, we should first examine opportunities to improve existing programs designed to help our nation’s most vulnerable children."
  • Literally Everyone (Except For Republican Congresspeople)
    Getty Images
    A July 2013 report from Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research revealed that a vast majority of Americans are on board with expanding young children's access to high-quality preschool through federal funding. According to the report, 70 percent of Americans strongly support or somewhat support a hypothetical federal plan that "helps states provide better early childhood education programs to low- and middle-income families without increasing the debt," while only 21 percent strongly oppose the plan.

    The report revealed that support for expanded access to pre-K cut across party lines. Sixty percent of those who support preschool identified as Republicans, 64 percent identified as Independents, while 84 percent identified as Democrats.

    Additionally, the report found Americans don't only want preschool, they want it NOW. Eight-six percent of Americans listed "ensuring children get a strong start" as a national priority, second only to "increasing jobs and economic growth."

    Even given these things, Republican Congress members seem to be in the minority of Americans who are not actively supporting the idea of expanding access to early childhood education. In June, Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) explained his opposition to a federally funded pre-K plan to EdSource.

    “There’s no money for what we have now,” he told the outlet, “and I am far, far from being convinced that this is even good if we could afford it.”

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