I'm a firm believer in the importance of those early years in a child's life. Watching my two girls and seeing from a distance my various nieces and nephews, I've come to recognize how much powerful learning happens long before kids begin school. There are many families who are unable to offer their children the opportunities they need to be as successful as possible when they reach school age. (I'm sure there are also families who simply don't do so. It doesn't matter, the children are the ones who pay the price and that's criminal.)
Kaine is now proposing to expand publicly funded pre-school for children in families that qualify for reduced lunch (currently only families who qualify for free lunch receive free pre-school). This would expand the program to 17,000 more children and cost $75 million a year. It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction.
A Washington Post article about Kaine's plan quotes James B. Hunt, Jr., former governor of North Carolina, about this issue.
Ask [legislators] what they do for K-12; they fund it 100 percent. Ask them what they do for higher ed; they fund it. This is more important," Hunt said. "This is necessary for those other things to work.
What a simple, powerful statement.