Obama Wants Your Smoking Habit to Help Pay for Universal Preschool

CigarettePresident Obama's recently-released 2014 budget includes an initiative that would provide universal preschool to low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds.

"That's nice," you're saying, "but how does he expect to pay for all that?"


Obama wants to raise the federal tax on tobacco products.

I'm not generally a fan of raising taxes, but this plan sounds pretty good to me -- how about you?


I was part of a call this afternoon with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who gave more details on the plan.

If the initiative is successful, the federal government would partner with states, districts, preschool providers, and parents to ensure all children enter kindergarten academically on schedule. It would provide all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds with high-quality preschool, and would give states incentives to serve even more 4-year-olds from middle class families. The initiative also promotes full-day kindergarten and high-quality early education programs for children under age four.

The President's budget also includes companion investments that would provide for home visits from nurses and social workers to families in need. The investments would also help preserve child care access and expand high-quality care for infants and toddlers through new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.

The White House believes that the Preschool for All initiative will ultimately result in higher graduation rates, increased employment, better jobs, less reliance on public assistance, and lower crime as these preschoolers grow up.

"All of our proposals will be fully paid for and won't add a nickel to the nation's deficit," Sec. Duncan promised during the call. That's because the White House wants to fund this initiative by raising taxes on tobacco. Specifically, cigarette smokers could expect to pay a $.94 per package tax.

Well! There's never been a better time to stop smoking, has there?

The White House estimates the new tobacco tax would prevent 233,000 children from beginning to smoke.

"We must get better, we must get better faster, and we must get better even in these difficult economic times," Sec. Duncan concluded. He's right -- research shows that the US is 28th out of 38 nations that currently offer parents access to preschool.

Of course, there are critics of this plan, and of universal preschool. The Washington Post has a great article listing the pros and cons of universal preschool here.

And you can find an overview of the president's 2014 budget, including more on the Preschool for All initiative, here.

I personally like the idea of universal preschool. We reported recently on a low-income elementary school that's number one in the state of Ohio -- the teachers and administrators there believe that the TWO years of preschool their school offers has made a HUGE difference in students' testing scores, now that they're older.

What do you think of universal preschool? Do you like the idea of paying for it with higher taxes on tobacco?


Image via SuperFantastic/Flickr

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