DECATUR, Ga. — President Barack Obama's plan to expand preschool for the nation's children faces deep skepticism among Republicans, who fear the creation of another federal entitlement program that they say could add to the nation's deficit and swell the ranks of the teachers' unions.
In a rally with teachers after visiting a class of 4-year-olds Thursday, Obama reiterated his State of the Union pledge to make high-quality preschool available to all children, which could cost as much as $10 billion a year, or nearly a 10th of the entire federal education budget.
"Hope is found in what works," Obama said to raucous applause after joining the children as they played with blocks and a magnifying glass. "This works. We know it works. If you are looking for a good bang for your educational buck, this is it. Right here."
Despite the outlines of a plan that White House officials said would use federal money in support of state-based preschool programs, conservatives said they were suspicious it would be a foot in the door toward more big government.
Obama gave few details of his plan to dramatically expand access to what he called "high-quality early education," although he cited preschools in Georgia as an example of the kind of long-term benefits for children taught at an early age by a qualified teacher.
"Study after study shows that the earlier a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road," Obama said. "We are not doing enough to give all of our kids that chance."
As described by administration officials, the plan would seek to increase the number of children who attend school before kindergarten. Federal money would be used primarily to make preschool classes available for more low- and moderate-income children, though the goal would be to persuade states to offer preschool to all who wanted it.