Bill would spend $30B to expand early childhood ed

A plan introduced in Congress today would expand early childhood education opportunities across the country.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and in the house by U.S. Reps. George Miller, D-Calif., and Richard Hanna, R-New York. If passed, it would spend $30 billion over the next five years to help states expand preschool to four-year-olds in low- and middle-income families.

It is being championed across the nation by advocates for improved preschool, among them Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. He was in Washington D.C. Wednesday with the law enforcement group Fight Crime: Invest in Kids to support the proposal, which has some bipartisan backing in the U.S. House.

"It would be a very good thing if every child had the opportunity to get involved in pre-K early childhood education and had the right tools to succeed from the start," Stanek said during an interview with MPR's All Things Considered on Wednesday.

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President Barack Obama announced his support for expansion of early-childhood education programs at his State of the Union speech this year. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has repeatedly expressed support for the expansion.

Stanek said he sees higher rates of incarceration among young people who don't have high school educations.

"We're trying to keep kids in caps and gowns rather than in handcuffs and orange jumpsuits," Stanek said. "As a professional law enforcement officer with 30 years of public safety experience here in Minnesota, I can tell you nothing makes a greater difference than investing in them early on, rather than being the guy they pay later."

The legislation would allow states to apply for funds to run all-day preschools. It also would include funds to help states ramp up the standards in their early-childhood programs.