Obama visits Decatur school, recreation center - CBS46 News

Obama visits Decatur school, recreation center

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA/AP) -

President Barack Obama came to Decatur on Thursday to make a public push for the early childhood education program he proposed in his State of the Union speech.

Obama said Tuesday night in his SOFU speech that he wants the federal government to work with states to make pre-kindergarten available to every child in America.

Secret Service agents began doing security sweeps at the Decatur Recreation Center and at the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center before daybreak.

Decatur City Schools are on winter break this week. However, College Heights remained open because classes for infants to three-year-olds were still in session. A school system spokeswoman said 100 percent of the teachers and 75 percent of the students in the school's pre-kindergarten program agreed to come to the school during their time off for the president's visit.

After touring College Heights and interacting with the children, Obama said in his speech at the Decatur Recreation Center that he wants to make preschool available to all 4-year-olds, a vast expansion of existing early childhood education programs.

He said that education has to start at the earliest possible age.

Obama claimed that every dollar spent on early education saves $7 for the government later on.

"This works. We know it works. If you are looking for a good bang for your educational buck, this is it right here," said Obama.

The College Heights facility is unique because it provides early learning to children from birth to age four. It's funded through a partnership between City Schools of Decatur, and Partners for Community Action, Inc. (Head Start Program).

Spotted in the crowd were several local state reps and senators, Decatur Mayor Jim Baskett, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson and former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland.

As Obama pitches his plan, at the Capitol in Washington D.C., Education Secretary Arne Duncan is telling senators that one out of every 13 students already in Head Start classrooms could be left out if lawmakers don't sidestep a March 1 budget meltdown.

The push to increase and preserve options for pre-kindergarten children comes as Obama's team is warning Congress -- and lawmakers' constituents -- what is expected to happen if leaders fail to avert $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that will impact national security and domestic programs alike.

Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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