KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- In his State of the Union speech, President Obama again pushed for expanding early childhood education to help more Americans succeed in life.
Last year Congress failed to act on the President's $75 billion proposal to expand Head Start and Pre-K education.
The recent federal budget agreement approved by both the House and Senate includes a billion dollars more for Head Start and child care. And that's significant because in most other areas of the budget funding has remained stable at best.
Some states are moving ahead on their own, not waiting for additional federal dollars. In its 2014 budget, Missouri has increased funding for preschool and early Head Start by nearly $7 million. This after funding for early childhood education was cut by $10 million in the Show-Me State two years ago.
In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback wants to expand kindergarten to a full-day of classes for all children. But Kansas is also one of only two states in the Midwest that does not enroll 3-year-olds in state funded Pre-K programs.
"Kansas and Missouri, the funding has remained relatively stable," said Dean Olson of The Family Conservancy. "With cuts one year and adding it back the next. We are always in jeopardy of losing funding for early education, although more and more folks are recognizing what an important investment it is."
Olson says politicians in both parties recognize that most formative learning happens in the first years of life. And investments in Pre-K education result in more kids graduating high school and fewer adults behind bars in prison.
A neighboring state, Oklahoma, already has implemented universal Pre-K education for all children. But experts agree programs alone are no substitute for good parenting. It's important to talk, read and play with children every day, starting as early as the infant stage.