Sebelius: Kids 'So Far Behind' by 3rd Grade 'May As Well Drop Out'

Penny Starr | June 12, 2013 | 4:48pm EDT
Font Size

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. (AP File Photo)

( – Children who don’t get a pre-kindergarten education, ideally from birth to age 5,  might fall behind and “may as well drop out” by third grade, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said on Wednesday at an event to garner support for President Barack Obama's $75-billion proposal to increase pre-school enrollment across the country.

Sebelius said investing in pre-school education would bring "prosperity to all our people."

“If we want to be a competitive country, if we want to make sure that we can achieve prosperity for all of our people, we have to figure out a way to have productive citizens throughout our population,” Sebelius said at the event, marking the one-year anniversary of an Educare school in the District of Columbia that serves children 6 weeks old to 5 years.

“We’ve got to make sure that kids by the time they hit kindergarten aren’t so far behind that they don’t ever catch up, and by the third grade they may as well drop out because they’re never going to catch up,” Sebelius said. "That's the snapshot that we have today."

President Obama put out a "comprehensive plan" in his State of the Union speech, she said, "a birth-through-5 [plan], recognizing that you can't just start with 4-year-olds, but they're very important, you have to really look at infants and toddlers, you have to do early interventions so parents can be the best and first teacher. You have to have a way that whatever place a parent chooses for their child in an out-of-home placement has high quality."

The explanation for Obama's pre-school plan is posted on the website of the Department of Education.

“Children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in school,” the website states. “Yet fewer than a third of the nation's 4-year-olds are enrolled in high-quality preschool.”

Noting that the U.S. ranks 28th in early education, with no source cited, the text continues:

“In one of the boldest expansions of opportunity in a generation, President Obama has committed to a historic new investment in preschool education that supports universal access to high-quality preschool for all 4-year olds from low-  and moderate-income families and creates an incentive for states to serve additional middle-class children,” the text states, adding that the Education and Health and Human Services departments will “improve services to younger children.”

The D.C. school – “Educare of Washington, D.C.” -- is part of the Educare Learning Network, a pre-school program with 18 schools in 12 states. Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan attended the event on Wednesday to urge support for President Barack Obama’s $75-billion 2014 budget request to double the number of 4-year-olds in pre-school from 1.1 million to 2.2 million.

Obama is also proposing $15 million more for infants and toddlers and home visitation, according to Duncan.

Duncan said at the event that if Congress approves the funding, it would “change the trajectory of the country forever.”

Literature from the Educare Learning Network handed out at the event states “learning begins at birth,” and claims that pre-school education can keep “at-risk” children from dropping out of school, lead less to become parents as teens and reduce the number who become violent criminals.

mrc merch