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Weekly Trend: White House Early Education Summit Means Big Opportunities for Innovators

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill don’t often agree, but one thing that is bringing both sides together is a mutual consensus: America’s early education system needs to improve.

“In the real world this has become a total bipartisan issue,”  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “We just wish and we need for folks here in Washington and Congress to pay attention to what’s happening back home and in the real world.”

Early education is now beginning to fall on lawmakers’ radars, including the president’s. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama convened a group of lawmakers, education advocates, school officials and community members at a White House Summit on Early Education.

“Since taking office, President Obama has committed to a comprehensive early learning agenda for America’s children that provides the support and services needed to set them on a path of success in school and in life,” a White House press release said.

At the summit, attendees discussed best practices for developing and implementing public-private partnerships dedicated to improving early education. The president also announced a broad, $1 billion investment in education comprised of federal grants as well as corporate and philanthropic contributions.

That investment includes “up to $500 million for more Head Start partnerships, guaranteed preschool through federal-state partnerships and extending evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs such as the Nurse Family Partnership, which provides training and assistance to young mothers.”

This renewed focus and massive influx of dollars into early education creates an unprecedented opportunity for edtech innovators to influence the education of children from the earliest age.

One of the best examples of this new opportunity may be Invest in U.S., a new initiative the president announced at the Summit. The $330 million campaign is sponsored by major corporations and foundations designed to “expand the reach and enhance the quality of early education for thousands of additional children.”

“The effort being led by the First Five Years Fund will challenge the private and public sectors to spend more on early childhood education,” a PBS story reported. “Among those supporting the campaign are The Walt Disney Co. with $55 million, the LEGO Foundation with $5 million and the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation with $25 million.”

The LEGO Foundation, for example, made a three-year commitment to “launch a new initiative to support scalable and outstanding models of early learning.”

“We are proud to support the expansion of quality early childhood education programs across the U.S. so that all children have the opportunity to succeed in school and life,” said Sarah Wolman, Senior Director of Programmes & Partnerships at LEGO, said.

Katie Thompson

Katie is the editor of Shared Justice, an online journal for millennials published by the Center for Public Justice. A proud native of New Jersey, she now resides in Washington,…