DOUG ROSS: Pre-K builds bridge between Obama, Pence

2013-02-15T00:00:00Z 2013-02-15T18:01:13Z DOUG ROSS: Pre-K builds bridge between Obama, PenceBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

President Barack Obama spoke of building bridges during his State of the Union address Tuesday, which ought to be popular in Northwest Indiana.

He urged a new program for "our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country." Did the Cline Avenue Bridge come to mind?

Speaking of bridges, there might be one between Obama and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, at least when it comes to preschool education.

Last Friday, Pence told the Gary Chamber of Commerce about a pre-kindergarten program for at-risk children in his hometown, Columbus, Ind.

"I think the time has come for us to come together as a state and work to expand it for Hoosiers and businesses to come together and support this kind of innovative, pre-K programs for at-risk kids," Pence said.

Four days later, on Tuesday, Obama told the nation, "Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. But today, fewer than three in 10 4-year-olds are enrolled in a high-quality preschool program. Most middle-class parents can't afford a few hundred bucks a week for a private preschool. And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America."

There's a big difference between expanding programs for at-risk children, as Pence proposes, and making pre-K education affordable for everyone, as Obama suggests.

But maybe the gulf between those two positions isn't so large that a bridge can't be built between the two.

Indiana, after all, is a state that created an expansive school voucher program that makes it easier for parents to put their children in a private school. Why not do something similar to put Hoosier children in preschool programs?

Kindergartners are learning more and doing more than their parents and grandparents did at that age. Preschool education — learning social skills as well as what their parents can and should teach them — is becoming more and more important.

Obama said this is an investment worth making: "Every dollar we invest in high-quality early childhood education can save more than $7 later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime."

Two speeches, worlds apart in politics, but both close to being in sync on preschool education. Who would have thought it?

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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