(CNSNews.com) - U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan strongly supports using federal funds for pre-kindergarten programs, but he hedged on giving tax breaks to parents who choose to stay at home with their children.
“It’s something we can look at,” Duncan said when asked about the issue by CNSNews.com
Duncan went to Bancroft Elementary School in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to discuss a report from the National Institute of Early Education Research on pre-K funding for the states.
The report says a "stable source of additional federal funding is needed to help offset interstate inequalities in financial capacity to support high quality pre-K.”
Duncan announced that $133 million from the 2012 budget will go to a new Race to The Top Early Learning Challenge that will aid states in funding pre-K education.
Race to the Top is the Obama administration’s education reform program that rewards schools for meeting certain benchmarks established by the Department of Education.
He also said money left over from the previous $550-million Race to The Top program "will go to a new district level competition.”
CNSNews.com asked Duncan, “Do you think it’s better to have tax programs -- when you look at the money that’s being spent here -- or other initiatives to help a parent stay at home with a child, or do you think it’s better to have a child entered in one of these pre-kindergarten programs?”
“It’s really a personal choice for families, Duncan replied. "My challenge is, there are a lot of families, like at this school right here -- a 400-person waiting list, the parents asking for those opportunities and they’re not available. So, parents want to keep their children at home or want to send them to school – I just want more high quality options available.
“If we’re serious about closing achievement gaps and leveling the playing field I think the best thing we can do is have our children enter our kindergarten at 5 ready to learn and ready to read and so expanding access in disadvantaged communities where families are looking for it. I think its critically important work for our country to do. That’s why we’re continuing to invest year after year,” Duncan continued.
CNSNews.com followed up, “But would you support tax breaks as well, for parents that want to stay home with their children?”
“It’s something we can look at, but again we just need a lot more access to high quality programs. That’s what we’re focused on.”