Why Expanding Access to Pre-K Is a Smart Investment

On Monday, February 2, I visited Lewis & Clark Elementary School in Ruther Glen, Virginia to speak with school administrators about the impact of early childhood education on Caroline County school children. During the discussion, I learned about the success of the Pre-K program at Lewis & Clark Elementary, as well as the high demand for more preschool classes to serve children. The administrators shared stories about having to wait-list or turn children away because of limited space. I heard their message loud and clear — we need more resources to reach more children.

I know first hand that investment in high-quality early childhood education pays dividends, not only for the rest of the child’s educational career, but also for adult success. Virginia started a modest early childhood education program after my two sons had already entered elementary school. My daughter, however, was just the right age to experience the program. And while my boys had a good experience with high-quality private child-care programs, the positive impact that a public, comprehensive Pre-K year had on my daughter made me a true believer in the power of early childhood education.

As Governor of Virginia, I championed early childhood education by increasing Pre-K enrollment by 40 percent in the Commonwealth.

In the Senate, I’ve worked to expand access to Pre-K in Virginia and throughout the country. Last week, I co-sponsored the Providing Resources Early for Kids [PRE-K] Act, a bill to provide grants for states to either begin new Pre-K programs or upgrade existing programs. Existing programs would be able to use more funds for professional training for their teachers and for spaces to serve more kids. If this legislation passes, it would help create or expand excellent Pre-K programs like the one at Lewis & Clark Elementary.

Expanding access to early childhood education helps close the achievement gap and prepare students for a lifetime of learning.

Following the meeting with administrators, I visited two preschool classrooms and read to the students. As I interacted with these bright, talented four- and five-year-olds, I also thought about the children in the Commonwealth who don’t have access to preschool. My visit to Lewis & Clark Elementary motivated me to continue working hard in the Senate to ensure that every child has access to high-quality early childhood education.

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