Defense officials have announced plans to fund universal prekindergarten at DoD schools. Here, first-grade students at Kadena Elementary School in Okinawa work with engineers and architects from Navy Facilities Engineering Systems Command during a quarterly Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math Day on Jan. 30, 2022. (Department of Defense Education Activity)

A funding request for universal prekindergarten in Department of Defense schools worldwide is included in the Defense Department budget request for fiscal 2024, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in a press briefing Monday.

Officials are asking for $90.4 million for a full-day program for all eligible 4-year-old children at Department of Defense Education Activity schools, according to budget documents.

The proposal must still be approved by Congress in the final defense budget. Information was not available from defense officials about when the universal prekindergarten would start, if Congress includes it in the legislation.

In September, DoDEA Director Thomas Brady told Military Times that defense officials were considering the idea, adding that senior leaders in DoD’s personnel and readiness division are “big advocates for DoDEA universal pre-K.”

Supporters of universal pre-K contend that earlier, high-quality education can make a positive difference in a child’s future. Some states have prekindergarten programs, but it’s a patchwork of different programs and eligibility.

In addition, a full-day program for 4-year-olds would help address the critical shortage of child care at many installations, advocates have said.

Separately, President Joe Biden’s administration has proposed funding for a federal-state partnership to provide free, universal preschool for all American children. A similar proposal for all 3- and 4-year-olds failed to make it into law last year. DoDEA schools were not included in that request.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book “A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families.” She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.



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