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John King: We’ve Got Unfinished Education Business

September 22, 2016
AccessUniversal and Targeted
Lauren Camera
U.S. News & World Report

The education landscape has undergone a sea change under the Obama administration, but Education Secretary John King sees a handful of pressing issues he considers unfinished business, with early childhood education being chief among them.

“There is a very large number of students in this country who don’t have access to high-quality early learning,” King said Wednesday morning at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure we have universal access to high-quality early learning, and not just for 4-year-olds, for 3-year-olds, too,” he said. “The vision is to make universal pre-K universal for all low- and middle-income families.”

Indeed, the U.S. is far behind other industrialized countries in providing access to such programs.

According to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or the OECD, the U.S. ranked 29th out of 36 countries in enrollment rates for its 3- and 4-year-olds. In the U.S., 42 percent of 3-year-olds and 68 percent of 4-year-olds were enrolled in early childhood or preschool programs in 2014 – far below the OECD average of 71 percent of 3-year-olds and 86 percent of 4-year-olds.