Educare Celebrates First Anniversary

D.C. Program Praised as Nationwide Model

Dorothy Rowley | 6/18/2013, 3:16 p.m.
Mayor Vincent Gray (fourth from left) took part in last year's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the D.C.'s Educare program. (Courtesy of Educareschools.org)

Educare, a state-of-the-art $16 million preschool initiative touted by the Obama administration as a catalyst for change, recently celebrated its first year in D.C.

The local program, part of the nationwide initiative comprised of 18 schools in 11 states, has been described as a model for the country.

During the groundbreaking ceremony last year, Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who along with Council members Marion Barry (Ward 8) and Yvette Alexander (Ward 7) has been a staunch supporter of teaching children to read as soon as possible, said that the time had come to stop the rhetoric and do something with the city's children.

“Let’s stop talking about what we can do with children and let’s start making a difference [with Educare],” Gray said, adding that teaching to children as young as a year old to read is one way parents can help them to build their vocabulary. “Quite frankly, if I were in the position to be able to have a fetus in the program, I would do that.”

One of a dozen such efforts across the country, the District’s Educare – funded with both public and private dollars – is based in Ward 7’s Kenilworth-Parkside community.

The full-day program, which provides education and care for nearly 160 of the District’s most vulnerable children, is staffed by teachers who’ve earned at least a bachelor’s degree.

Obama’s Educare plan, which extends over a 10-year period, calls for raising $75 billion in other programs and services that will help to double the number of 4-year-olds in preschool from 1.1 million to 2.2 million. The proposal also focuses on raising an additional $15 billion for the education of toddlers and babies as young as six weeks old.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took part in the District’s June 12 anniversary celebration.

During the Educare Learning Network's Investors Luncheon, both talked about the need to radically expand high-quality early learning and the significance of forging ahead with the president’s landmark “Birth to Five” plan.

“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.

Duncan agreed, stressing that “public-private partnerships like Educare are the only way we're going to get there ... Educare is a better way to do [early education], and [the D.C. program] is starting to become a real national model.”