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Despite sequestration, Obama administration makes case for early childhood spending

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sp

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is arguing for new spending on early childhood education, despite sequestration cuts going into effect.

As the president addressed the nation this morning outlining the impacts of expected sequestration cuts, two of his cabinet members were a few miles away making the case not for cuts but for new spending on early childhood programs.

At an elementary school in Takoma Park, Md., Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius extolled the success of Rolling Terrace elementary school. It’s a unique institution that incorporates its infant and preschool program with its K-5 classes to connect the programming for both age groups.

The joint appearance suggests that interconnected learning will be one part of the administration's strategy for early childhood education.

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The school visit comes on the heels of the State of the Union announcement by President Obama that his administration will be making early childhood education a focus of his second term. Until now, precious few details — and no price tag — have been announced.

The president’s team is still making the case for what Duncan on Friday called a “win-win proposition” at a time when new spending proposals might seem like fanciful wishes.

Both cabinet members talked in terms of “investing” and the economic returns that early childhood education brings. Money spent on preparing 4 year old for school now, Duncan said, reduces costs to society later on.

“If we want to invest wisely and save taxpayers' money over the long haul,” he told the teachers and advocates in the audience, “this is the best play we can make.”

Sebelius made the economic case for investment in children under 3 years old.

Attending the event was Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund. In an interview later, she said that despite the lack of concrete details, “the president’s policy frame is the most comprehensive and far reaching that we’ve ever seen before.”

Friday’s visit to Rolling Terrace coincided with sequestration cuts going into effect. Duncan called the cuts to programs for vulnerable children “economically foolish” and “morally indefensible.”

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