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Obama's Education Plan to Reform Schools & Reward Teachers


Obama's Education Plan to Reform Schools & Reward Teachers

Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

NCLB Has Demoralized Teachers, Students
The fact is, No Child Left Behind has done more to stigmatize and demoralize our students and teachers in struggling schools than it has to marshal the talent and the determination and the resources to turn them around.

That's what's wrong with No Child Left Behind, and that's what we must change in a fundamental way.

I want to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education - one where we all come together for the sake of our children's success; an era where each of us does our part to make that success a reality - parents and teachers; leaders in Washington and citizens all across America.

I won't pretend that this will be easy. We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind. We must provide the funding we were promised, and give our states the resources they need, and finally meet our commitment to special education.

But that alone is not an education policy. It's just a starting point.

Commit "Full Resources of the Federal Government"
A truly historic commitment to education - a real commitment - will require new resources and new reforms. It will require a willingness to break free from the same debates that Washington has been engaged in for decades - Democrat versus Republican; vouchers versus the status quo; more money versus more accountability.

And most of all, it will take a President who is honest about the challenges we face - who doesn't just tell everyone what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.

I am running to be that President. And that's why I'm proposing a comprehensive plan to give every American child the chance to receive the best education America has to offer - from the moment they're born to the day they graduate college.

As President, I will put the full resources of the federal government behind this plan. But to make it a reality, I will also ask more of teachers and principals; parents and students; schools and communities.

A few weeks ago, I introduced my plan to make college affordable by creating a $4,000 per year refundable tax credit that will cover two-thirds of the tuition at the average public college or university. And yesterday, I unveiled my proposal to strengthen our community colleges by offering new degrees for emerging fields and rewarding schools that graduate more students.

Today, I want to talk about what we can do to prepare every student to succeed in college - preparation that begins at birth and continues with world-class schools, outstanding teachers, and transformative principals.

Part One: Affordable Early Childhood Education
The first part of my plan focuses on providing quality, affordable early childhood education to every American child.

We know what a difference early childhood programs make in the lives of our kids. Study after study proves that children in these programs - especially low-income children - are more likely to score higher in reading and math, more likely to graduate high school and attend college, more likely to hold a job and more likely to earn more on that job. And for every $1 we invest in these programs, we get $10 back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health care costs, and less crime.

In recent years, states have been able to enroll nearly one million four year olds in pre-Kindergarten programs. That's a great success, but I believe we can do better.

We need to enroll more children and we need to start at an even earlier age. Because the fact is, studies show that from the time of conception to the first day of kindergarten, children's development progresses faster than at any other stage of life. By the age of three, 85% of the brain's core structure is already formed. Eighty-five percent.

So here's what we did in Illinois. As a state Senator, I helped create the Illinois Early Learning Council, which launched a program called Preschool for All. This has made us one of the first states to commit to a high quality early learning program that starts helping children from the day they're born.

It provides early care and education for new families as well as at-risk infants and toddlers, and offer at-risk three-year olds and all four-year-olds the chance to enroll in pre-Kindergarten programs.

There is no reason we can't and shouldn't replicate this all across America.

Children's First Agenda for Ages Zero to Five
As President, I will launch a Children's First Agenda that provides care, learning and support to families with children ages zero to five. We'll create Early Learning Grants to help states create a system of high-quality early care and education for all young children and their families.

We'll increase Head Start funding and quadruple Early Start to include a quarter of a million at-risk children.

I will create a Presidential Early Learning Council to coordinate this effort across all levels of government and ensure that we're providing these children and families with the highest quality programs.

And we'll help more working parents find a safe, affordable place to leave their children during the day by improving the educational quality of our child care programs and increasing the child care tax credit.

That's how we'll give our kids the best possible start in life, and that's the commitment America will make when I am President.

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