Today was a big day for the small city of Decatur. President Barack Obama paid a visit to an early education center and addressed a crowd on the importance of preschool. WABE’s Rose Scott reports on the president’s message:
Normally the sounds of basketball can be heard from the Decatur Recreation Center, but on this day there was the sound of applause. It thundered as the crowd cheered for President Obama after being introduced by Pre-Kindergarten educator Mary McMahon.
“Please join me in welcoming the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”
The President praised the work of McMahon and her fellow educators at Decatur’s College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center.
He jokingly thank McMahon for “teaching him how to count.”
President Obama told the crowd packed inside the small gym that he was proud of the work being done at the Decatur school. But the President also talked about the thousands of kids that are missing out on early education:
“The kids we saw today – that I had a chance to spend time with in Mary’s classroom – they are some of the lucky ones.”
President Obama said his vision for the nation’s Pre-K program is a shared plan that will allow all four-year-olds access to pre-school, which is needed “because fewer than 3 in 10 four-year-olds are enrolled in a high quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can’t afford a few hundred bucks a week for private preschool. And for the poor children who need it the most, the lack of access to a great pre-school education can have an impact on their entire lives.”
The president acknowledged how financially tough it is for states to fund Pre-K programs.
But, in his plan, it would take a federal/state partnership that would allow four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families to attend a high-quality preschool.
And that need was echoed by 9-year old Ethan Davis, who reflected on his Pre-K experience: “We had story time, and we got to learn stuff that will get us ready for kindergarten … and it was really fun.”