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“Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America. Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime … studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works.”

 --President Barack Obama
State of the Union, February 12, 2013

As I arrived in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night, I was filled with excitement and optimism. Excitement about being in the nation’s capital on such a momentous occasion as the president’s State of the Union address, and optimism about the vision he articulated to provide high-quality preschool for every child in America.

At the Gates Foundation, we make investments in Washington state which support high-quality care and early learning for children from birth through the third grade. We do this because the evidence is clear: when young children have healthy and enriching experiences, along with high-quality instruction, they are more likely to be ready for school and to transition successfully into kindergarten and beyond.

We are not alone. The Gates Foundation is one voice among many who understand the value of early learning investments. Our partners at the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the First Five Years Fund work tirelessly to educate the public and policymakers about the importance of the first five years of life.

More details about the president’s early learning plan were released today. The U.S. Department of Education will allocate funding to states based on their share of 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. States will be responsible for meeting benchmarks that are linked to better outcomes for kids.

In addition to high-quality preschool for all of America’s children, the president’s vision includes competitive grants to communities through the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership and expansion of evidence-based, voluntary home visiting.

If these programs are implemented, Washington state stands to benefit greatly. Our children will be healthier, and more likely to enter school prepared, graduate, and attend college. As adults, they will be better able to support their families and contribute to their communities.

Research proves that early learning is one of the best investments we can make—for our children, for our communities, and for the overall economic well-being of our country. Look at this graphic from The White House for even more evidence.

As I boarded the plane to head back home, to the “Other Washington,” I remained full of excitement and optimism. We have a lot of work to do, but through strong partnerships and committed leadership, we can provide a high-quality early learning experience for every child.

Originally posted at the Gates Foundation blog.

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