By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Federal education secretary Arne Duncan isn’t in Washington much these days. He’s visiting states to convince governors to approve $75 billion in new federal tobacco taxes to fund his early-childhood plan, “Preschool for All.”

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The average disadvantaged child comes to kindergarten a year to a year-and-a-half behind other kids…and we spend time and money trying to catch up…wondering why we have an achievement gap.

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But, as Lyndsey Layton in The Washington Post puts it, the dividends from preschool investment – higher rates of high school graduation and employment, lower rates of incarceration and teen pregnancy – don’t catch up until years later…. which makes it a hard sell now.

Under the plan, the Feds would offer grants to states to enroll 4-year-olds from low and moderate income families, starting with 91% down to 25% after 10 years. Additionally, $15 billion would fund programs for babies and toddlers.

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Education and politics are not necessarily mutually exclusive; there’s enough research telling us we have no choice.