As presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders continue to suck up oxygen with promises for revolution, strategies to promote high-quality K-12 schools have received little attention on the campaign trail. (Do we sound like a broken record yet?)
But during a campaign stop in Kentucky on Tuesday, leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton announced a big plan to help America’s youngest learners — continuing her commitment to early childhood education and to making sure the neediest children don’t start school far behind their more-advantaged peers.
Ahead of Kentucky’s May 17 Democratic primary, Clinton announced a plan to double down on a home visitation program for low-income families, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Initiative. Under the widely praised program, interested pregnant women and new parents receive regular, planned home visits from nurses and social workers with a goal to improve maternal and child health, prevent child abuse, encourage positive parenting practices, and better prepare at-risk children for school.
Clinton said she hopes to extend the program to more than 2 million parents and children in the next decade.
Implemented in 2010 through a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal home visiting program has bipartisan support and is backed by decades of research showing home visits improve child and family outcomes. It was the first national push to expand home visiting, with the federal government investing $1.5 billion in the program’s first five years.
A report by Mathematica Policy Research, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, showed home visits can reduce the need for remedial education and increase family self-sufficiency.
This is Clinton’s latest effort to tie her education policy positions to those of President Obama. In February, as she worked to harness votes from the African-American community, Clinton proposed a plan to dismantle the “school-to-prison pipeline,” empower black entrepreneurs, and create jobs for black youth — all positions that mirror the sitting president.
Although Clinton has largely been quiet about her plans for America’s K-12 education system, she’s long been an advocate for early childhood education — including promoting universal preschool. During her visit Tuesday to a Kentucky social services center that provides subsidized child care, Clinton went deeper by proposing a pay raise for child-care workers, and tax credits and other subsidies that would free families from having to pay more than 10 percent of their income on child care.
During her time as the first lady of Arkansas, she also championed the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), a similar home visiting program that has been shown to boost test scores, attendance, and academic self-esteem in young children, and increase parental involvement in education.