The Place of Music Education in the Pre-K Movement

The necessity and importance of early childhood education continues to gain traction. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 70 percent of Americans favor federal funds to expand pre-K education. And those voices of parents are the most critical in the conversation.

“States applying for the newest federal early-learning grant competition,” writes Lauren Camera in Education Week’s “Politics K-12” blog, “will be more likely to clinch the federal funds if the proposals include a strong parent-engagement component, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Tuesday.”

As Sec. Duncan noted this past Tuesday during his bus tour, “We know when we don’t have access to high-quality pre-K and early learning, kids start kindergarten a year to 18 months behind.” He continues, “That’s not fair to the kids, that’s not fair to the teacher, and that’s not fair to that family.”

The newest $250 million Preschool Development Grant competition allows states to develop and expand preschool programs in high-need communities. These grants reflect President Obama’s early education focus. Applications for development and expansion grants are due Tuesday, October 14, and awards will be given in December. (September 15 update: So far 32 states have filed notices of intent to apply for preschool development grants. As of October 29, 35 states and Puerto Rico have applied for grants. See the full list here.)

A key component of high-quality preschool education is music education from the start. Research has attested the significant impact music classes have on learning at an early age. The results of a two-year study by the University of Buffalo Graduate School of Education “showed that music instruction significantly increased children’s oral vocabulary and grammatic understanding, after controlling for students’ age and prior knowledge, and was especially effective for children who began with lower literacy skills.” Music education also bridges the gap between poor and affluent students.

Last year President Obama called on states to offer universal preschool for low- and middle-income students. With classroom music having a positive impact both on early learners and low-income students, the place of music education in the push for preschool education provision and funding is clear.

preschool music education

Pre-K is now taking the spotlight as candidates hit the campaign trails this fall. And candidates on both sides of the aisle support early education—as do their voters, particularly women and Hispanic voters.

“Parents’ voices have to be heard on this,” Sec. Duncan said. “Having parents talk about the need, talk about the demand, it’s imperative.”

When parents ask for preschool education support from candidates running for office, it makes sense to ask for classroom music to be part of those proposals. After all, music education answers two concerns preschool supporters have: bridging economic gaps in academic achievement and getting our youngest students off to the strongest starts in their education.

Catherina Hurlburt, Special Assistant, September 10, 2014. © National Association for Music Education (