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15 February 2013

Obama Proposes Federal Pre-K Program in Decatur, But Doesn't Say How He'll Pay For It

On Valentine's Day 2013, Barack Obama visited Georgia to show his new found love for preschool and pre-kindergarten programs.

(President Barack Obama speaks to a crowd of 600 in Decatur, Georgia. Photo by Andre Walker)
Speaking under a banner that read "Preschool for all," Obama told an estimated 600 people gathered in the Decatur Community Recreation Center, "Let’s make it a national priority to give every child access to a high-quality early education."

Hours before Obama's remarks, the White House rolled out a few specifics on how he would federalize pre-K programs like the successful one here in Georgia. According to the White House, Obama's plan would extend federal funds to expand high-quality public preschool to reach all low- and moderate-income four-year olds from families at or below 200% of poverty. But there is one thing Obama or the White House did not mention during Thursday's presidential visit:

How are they going to pay for federalized pre-K.

Georgia's pre-K programs work because we have a dedicated funding source; the lottery for education.

Barack Obama did not talk about that yesterday. He did not talk about the investment Gov. Zell Miller made, more than twenty years ago, in the Georgia lottery. Gov. Miller made the lottery for education a key plank of his 1990 gubernatorial campaign. Gov. Miller led the effort to push the lottery through the General Assembly. And he campaigned hard for the lottery referendum in 1992. Barack Obama did not tell the people that.

In addition, Barack Obama did not provide an incentive for Georgia to participate in a federal program when our state program is working extremely well.

The President's speech, Thursday, was full of applause lines and little else.

When the President's bill to federalize pre-K gets introduced in Congress, it is imperative that members of Georgia's congressional delegation (many of whom were in the state legislature when the lottery for education was first proposed) talk about why our pre-K program works so well.

Unless Barack Obama is proposing a federal lottery for education, his plan to offer pre-K to every American presents yet another way to spend money the federal government does not have. Pre-K for the next generation of Americans is great, but to quote Barack Obama, we should not "saddle them with unsustainable debt" to pay for it.