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US education secretary visits to promote preschool plan

May 20, 2021 GMT
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona greets Dael Kim as Sec. Cardona and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper tour Bright Beginnings Child Development Center in Cary, N.C., Thursday, May 20, 2021.(Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona greets Dael Kim as Sec. Cardona and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper tour Bright Beginnings Child Development Center in Cary, N.C., Thursday, May 20, 2021.(Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona greets Dael Kim as Sec. Cardona and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper tour Bright Beginnings Child Development Center in Cary, N.C., Thursday, May 20, 2021.(Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona greets Dael Kim as Sec. Cardona and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper tour Bright Beginnings Child Development Center in Cary, N.C., Thursday, May 20, 2021.(Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)
U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona greets Dael Kim as Sec. Cardona and N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper tour Bright Beginnings Child Development Center in Cary, N.C., Thursday, May 20, 2021.(Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)

CARY, N.C. (AP) — Joe Biden’s education secretary visited a North Carolina child care center on Thursday to promote the president’s proposal to offer free preschool to all 3- and 4-year-olds.

Secretary Miguel Cardona toured the Bright Beginnings Child Development Center in Cary with Gov. Roy Cooper. State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen and schools Superintendent Catherine Truitt also attended, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

“We know that there’s benefits for all children to attend,” Cardona said after the tour. “We want to make sure that we’re providing opportunities for all students to attend good 3- and 4-year-old programs while giving families choice.”

The American Families Plan that Biden has pitched to Congress would spend $200 billion toward the universal preschool goal. The plan in all would spend $1.8 trillion, covered by higher tax rates on the wealthiest and other IRS enforcement changes.

North Carolina hasn’t reached its goal of providing free prekindergarten to 75% of the state’s at-risk 4-year-old children. While the state has seen pre-K enrollment reach 31,000 children, or roughly 50% of those eligible, enrollment dropped this school year due to the pandemic, the newspaper reported.

Cooper also wants to use some of the state’s discretionary share of American Rescue Plan funds to boost the North Carolina Pre-K program. His proposal in part would fund an additional 1,000 slots for 4-year-olds in each of the next three years.

Cardona also participated in a roundtable discussion at the center with early childhood education leaders.