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Obama touts new commitments to expand early childhood education

President Obama on Wednesday hailed $330 million in new commitments from businesses and philanthropists to help expand the availability of early childhood education.

"Even in Washington, that's real money," the president said in his remarks at the White House Summit on Early Education.

Mr. Obama also announced up to $750 million in new federal grants to increase access to early education.

The president first outlined his vision for universal pre-kindergarten education at his State of the Union address in 2013, and he praised the business and charity leaders in the room on Wednesday for helping realize that goal.

He also pressed Congress to do its part, calling early childhood education "a win for everybody."

"It saves taxpayer dollars. It gives our children a better chance," he said, noting studies that link early education with increased lifetime earnings, higher graduation rates, and decreased violent crime.

While Congress has not made a big push on the issue, the president praised lawmakers for "taking some steps in the right direction" by expanding grant programs.

Since his State of the Union in 2013, he noted, 34 states and a number of cities and communities across the country have also taken action on their own to increase access to early education.

"All told, they've invested more than a billion dollars in our children," the president said.

The president was introduced at the event 9-year-old Alajah Lane, who recounted her own experience with local preschool programs.

"All kids should get the chance to learn when they are little because it is so important," Lane said. "When you invest in me, you invest in us."

Lane also said she wants to be the first lady when she grows up.

"Alajah clearly knows where power is," Mr. Obama joked as he began his speech.

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