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Georgia could expand pre-k plan under federal plan
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ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia and other states could get billions of dollars over the next decade to expand pre-kindergarten programs.

Georgia could expand such programs to 4-year-olds from moderate-income families under President Obama's 2014 budget proposal, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported ( ).

The president's plan was released Wednesday. It calls for nearly doubling the federal tobacco tax to support a $75 billion investment in pre-kindergarten and other education initiatives for children as young as infants.

The White House plan is based, in part, on Georgia's often-heralded pre-k program which is funded by lottery proceeds. It serves about 84,000 4-year-olds.

In February, Obama visited College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center in Decatur to pitch the plan -- called "Preschool for All." It was first unveiled in the president's State of the Union address.

The plan calls for states and the federal government to work together to expand access to pre-k to families whose income is below 200 percent of the poverty limit, or less than $47,100 a year for a family of four. It also creates a new Early Head Start program for very young children.

"The president knows the best way to build and support a thriving middle class is through world-class education," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.

"President Obama understands that the stubborn opportunity gap that confronts far too many American children and limits their life chances often begins even before they enter school," the secretary said.

In Georgia, about 53 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in the state's voluntary, 20-year-old pre-kindergarten program. Pre-k costs are paid almost entirely with revenue from lottery ticket sales, and the state's program received the highest rating possible last year when measured by 10 benchmarks of quality.