$500 Million Obama Administration Program Will Help Kids 'Sit Still' in Kindergarten

May 25, 2011 - 6:45 PM
Kathleen Sebelius

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks in Seattle on Feb. 9, 2011. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNSNews.com on Wednesday that the administration's new $500 million early learning initiative is designed to deal with children from birth onward to prevent such problems as 5-year olds who "can't sit still" in a kindergarten classroom.

“You really need to look at the range of issues, because if a 5-year-old can’t sit still, it is unlikely that they can do well in a kindergarten class, and it has to be the whole range of issues that go into healthy child development,” Sebelius said during a telephone news conference on Wednesday to announce the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.

Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan jointly announced the $500-million program, which will provide competitive grants to states to address issues affecting educational outcomes for children from birth to age 5.

On the conference call, CNSNews.com asked: “What were the current problems that were found with the health, social and emotional development for children ages birth to 5?”

Sebelius, adding on to comments from Asst. Education Secretary Joan Lombardi, pointed to studies done in her home state of Kansas, where she served as governor. “When we looked at 5-year olds--and we tested about half the 5-year-olds in a relatively homogeneous state like Kansas -- and found that about half of them were not ready for kindergarten at age 5," Sebelius said.

"And some of those skills were missing: readiness for their math or reading," she said. "A number of children were missing the social and developmental skills which would allow them to sit in a classroom or play with others or listen to a teacher for any period of time. So I think it was an indicator that you couldn’t just test curriculum readiness.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, awards in Race to the Top will go to “states that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive early learning education reform.”