Secretary Duncan’s NGA Speech – Early Childhood Education Highlights

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at the National Governors Association Winter meeting on February 23, 2014. Early childhood education was the primary focus of his remarks as evidenced by the title “The Top Ten List for Why the Expansion of High Quality Early Learning is Inevitable”. However he did provide handouts highlighting progress in K-12 education and higher education.

States that have higher-than-average gains in two of four NAEP exams over the past three years include Washington, D.C., Tennessee, Indiana, Minnesota, and Hawaii.States with the largest two-year increase in early learning funding include:

  • Rhode Island – 244%
  • New Mexico – 106%
  • Minnesota – 76%
  • South Carolina – 73.2%
  • Michigan – 67.1%

State preschool programs serving at least 50% of four-year-olds in state preschool programs and that met 8 of the 10 NIEER quality benchmarks are:

  • Oklahoma – 74.1%
  • West Virginia – 60.9%
  • Georgia – 58.7%

Duncan stated “60% of the nation’s 4.1 million four-year olds are not enrolled in any publicly-funded preschool program…the demand from parents is not just for more preschool slots for four-year-olds, it’s for high-quality early learning opportunities from birth to age five.”

Secretary Duncan’s Top Ten List is summarized below:

  1. Greater public awareness of the importance of the early years.
  2. Powerful, bipartisan coalition of ogvernors is increasing funding.
  3. Strong support from diverse segments of the population.
  4. Old arguments about states having no role in early childhood education have lost force.
  5. Growing recognition that quality matters.
  6. The majority of states are assessing school readiness when children enter kindergarten.
  7. Many states have enacted third grade reading laws.
  8. America is behind high-performing countries in provision of early learning.
  9. We are in a time of federal-state partnerships to fund innovation and capacity building for early childhood programs.
  10. “The enormous unmet need and demand for high-quality early learning.”

He encouraged governors to support the Strong Start for America’s Children Act and noted that the act doesn’t create a new federal preschool program, it helps states build on the preschool programs they have. He said, “It’s absolutely clear to me that the early learning system of the future will be a mixed delivery system of providers.”

Secretary Duncan and our Early Childhood Leadership Council thought leaders are certainly on the same page regarding this very important issue.