When Barack Obama ran for president, he claimed that improving early childhood education would be a hallmark of his education reform agenda. Unfortunately, his policies in office have not lived up to that promise. Over the past three years, other education issues—Race to the Top funds for K-12 schools, Pell grants for low-income college students, and K-12 reforms like Common Core standards, teacher evaluation, and charter schools—have all taken priority and defined the administration’s education agenda, with early childhood education falling by the wayside.
Moreover, what efforts the administration has made to focus on the country’s youngest children have been deeply problematic. Take the Early Learning Challenge, a new competitive grant program for states intended to improve early education. When the Obama administration announces the grant winners later this month, it will likely be touting the program’s promise. Upon closer inspection, however, it’s clear that the Early Learning Challenge will probably prove to be too little, too late.