Today we feature a guest post by David L. Kirp, professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, and the author of The Sandbox Investment: The Preschool Movement and Kids-First Politics. His next book is Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: Five Big Ideas for Transforming Children’s Lives, to be published next winter. He served on the education policy team during the 2008-09 presidential transition.
Kids’ advocates stood on the sidelines last March, watching helplessly as the Early Learning Challenge Fund, a $1 billion-a-year initiative to strengthen the quality of early education and child care, was stricken from the health care reform bill. The fact that early education wasn’t important enough to merit an up-or-down vote, instead becoming ensnared in the debates over health care and the restructuring of the college loan program, says a lot about what has happened—more precisely, what hasn’t happened—on the early education front. Despite the widespread recognition that good early education can alter the arc of children’s lives, the conventional wisdom, that children don’t matter because they don’t vote, endures. In national politics, children come last.