SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — California’s state schools chief on Tuesday night welcomed President Barack Obama’s plan for all 50 states to provide pre-kindergarten schools for 4-year-olds, indicating that he believed such a move would result in better prepared students and ultimately a more educated workforce.

Obama’s plan, unveiled in his State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., would provide federal government support to the states to provide access to preschool for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds.

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“I welcome President Obama’s call for making early learning a national priority,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson told CBS San Francisco in an e-mailed statement. “We know that there are significant benefits to helping children start school excited and ready to learn—and that those benefits last the rest of their lives.”

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“Like other parts of the nation, California has struggled to preserve high-quality early education during the Great Recession,” Torlakson continued. “We look forward to this new opportunity to partner with the Administration to give more children the opportunity to benefit from high-quality early education programs.”

Obama also wants the federal government to give the states incentives to provide full-day kindergarten.

Obama campaigned in 2008 on a plan for universal pre-school. Advocates contend such a plan results in improved student test scores and reduced spending on government assistance programs. Skeptics claim that evidence of positive results is limited and that preschool can encourage children to spend less time with their parents.

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