WASHINGTON — With a series of slick, celebrity-voiced PSAs, the White House hopes to convince more parents to take advantage of early childhood education programs across the country.
The new PSAs, obtained by BuzzFeed News ahead of their official unveiling Wednesday at the White House Summit on Early Education, focus on the types of activities available with early childhood education programs and push for more government and private investment in them.
The administration has helped funnel millions to state early childhood education programs and plans to ask Congress to authorize more money for efforts targeted especially at so-called "high-need communities." Administration officials acknowledged Tuesday that getting those funds out of a Republican-controlled Congress could be a challenge.
"The challenge is, quite frankly, this has yet to become a truly bipartisan issue here in Washington, said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "And for all the success, we're so proud that we've invested north of $1 billion now, what still haunts me is the huge unmet need in state after state after state."
Duncan said he hoped the PSAs and the White House early education summit Wednesday will help convince Congressional Republicans to follow the lead of many Republican governors, who the administration says have embraced White House-led early education programs.
"This work began long before the election ever did. We've seen tremendous interest from, again, Republican and Democratic governors across the nation ... In the real world, this has become a totally bipartisan issue which we think is just fantastic," said Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education.
At the summit, President Obama, Vice President Biden and the leaders of a slew of private partners will meet at the White House to unveil the PSAs — part of a new effort called Invest In Us — aimed at increasing awareness for education programs across the country that advocates say can help the youngest underprivileged children match the educational performance of their counterparts born into better means. Business leaders at the summit are expected to announce hundreds of millions of dollars in new money for early childhood education programs.
The PSAs are not set for TV broadcast, but rather as part of a new online campaign led by Kris Perry, executive director at the privately-financed First Five Years Fund, an early-education advocacy group. In addition to her education advocacy work, Perry was a plaintiff in the federal challenge to California's Proposition 8, which helped legalize same sex marriage in the state.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News from the White House, Perry said that despite the buzzy focus on early childhood education from many of the biggest names in education reform, she still has to make the case that the programs are a worthwhile investment.
"We're still making the case that children under the age of five are being educated period. That it's happening in their lives all the time," she said. "I think the average person views education as something that happens in a school, with a desk and with a teacher at the front of the room, and it's really hard to make the case that kids at younger ages are going to benefit just as much if not more from being in a high quality provider network system than even an older child."