The Obama administration is outlining the "federal-state partnership" it wants to use to widen preschool programs, emphasizing small class sizes and rigorous curricula in its outreach to 4-year-olds in low- and moderate income households, reports the Wall Street Journal. The outline expands on President Obama's State of the Union address, and would require states to put in some matching funds. What's not clear? How much the initiative would cost, where that money is coming from, and whether Obama can convince Congress. "He presented a vision for an ideal federal policy," says a Democrat and proponent of education reform. "But it's hard to see it happening."

The United States ranks 28th out of 38 developed countries for 4-year-olds enrolled in early education, and some economists argue that quality preschool education can reduce long-term crime rates, boost academic achievements, and improve incomes. The president's plan also calls for expanding Early Head Start to broaden childcare for infants and toddlers. “The evidence is, if we don’t make this investment and we don’t make it wisely, we’re going to pay for it later," one Alabama businessman tells the New York Times.

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