California's momentum on early learning was in the spotlight this week, when the White House came to town for "Children: The Bay Area's Greatest Investment," a Town Hall in San Francisco that celebrated the state's recent successes and reenergized participants to recommit to doing more for our youngest learners.
The Town Hall was one of a half dozen gatherings convened across the country by the White House, including another in Los Angeles, to build support for President Obama's early education agenda, including enrolling 6 million low-income kids in preschool by 2020.
Early Edge California was honored to join the White House in hosting this event.
The Administration has played a significant role in building momentum for early childhood education, both by placing it at the top of President Obama's list of domestic priorities, and through investments in birth through age 8, including Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, Preschool Development Grants, home visiting and more. San Francisco was chosen to host the Town Hall because First 5 San Francisco's innovative Preschool for All program has provided such a model of what is possible.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Town Hall's keynote speaker, declared, "Early education is an idea whose time has come." And we couldn't agree more.
Early Edge California spends a lot of time in communities across the state, and we've seen remarkable movement on early learning. For years, this has been an issue that many decision makers liked but never prioritized. Now, high-quality early education is the subject of multiple public polls showing overwhelming majority support and has been featured in two of President Obama's State of the Union Addresses. And here in California, thanks to the leadership of State Senator Darrell Steinberg, former Assembly Speaker John Pérez and the Legislative Women's Caucus, early learning was a major focus of the Legislature this session, resulting in the largest investment in over a decade: $273 million for early education and development.
Yet, we still fall so far short in serving our youngest learners and their families effectively, in a way that recognizes the important intersection of health and early education.
The partnerships we form are critical to the work ahead, from the private-public partnerships we're seeing with strong investments by visionary philanthropists and the corporate sector, to federal-state partnerships like Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge.
This was a message echoed on the Town Hall panel, with San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza; District Chief of Early Learning Carla Bryant; Bay Area Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman; former Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg; and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning Libby Doggett all speaking on the importance of engaging cross-sector communities -- from corporate to military, and from K-12 to health -- to extend our impact and do more for our children.
Now is a moment of opportunity -- and urgency. We have the chance to make a difference for a whole new generation of young learners, babies who are being born right now, who will become our future leaders and innovators.