Biden's American Families Plan Could Expand Access To Early Education In Arizona

Published: Friday, April 30, 2021 - 2:59pm
Updated: Friday, April 30, 2021 - 5:28pm

This week, President Joe Biden unveiled a $200 billion plan to expand access to preschool settings for all 3- and 4-year-olds, an investment he said would set children up for success in kindergarten and beyond. 

Kids who attend preschool are more likely to take honors classes, less likely to repeat a grade, according to research cited by the White House in a press release on the plan. Another study found that for low-income children, access to high-quality preschool education improved their reading and math skills.

In Arizona, only 19% of 3- and 4-year-old children are in quality early learning setting, according the Education Progress Meter by Expect More Arizona. 

Rich Nickel, who leads the soon-to-be consolidated advocacy organizations Expect More Arizona, Achieve60AZ and College Success Arizona, believes Biden's plan, or a plan similar to it, could help improve early education access in Arizona and meet the state's goal of 45%.

“I think there will be wide agreement that if we’re going to reach some of our goals for quality early learning and early childhood education, we’re going to need some of that investment for those who want to use it," Nickel said.

Nickel describe current state funding for early childhood education as "inconsistent and unfocused."

If Biden's plan passes, Nickel said it wouldn't just benefit students. It would also benefit their families and the state. 

“We know if a parent knows that their child is getting a great early childhood opportunity that also allows that parent to participate more fully in our economy which for both them and business," he said. 

In addition, Biden is proposing to offer scholarships or free community college to individuals hoping to become early childhood educators. He also wants to see pre-K and Head Start program employees making at least $15 an hour. 

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