President Obama visits children at College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center. Obama traveled to Georgia to promote economic and educational initiatives he spoke about in this week's State of the Union. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)
DECATUR, Ga. -- President Barack Obama says when it comes to education, the earlier the better, adding that Georgia gets an "A" for pre-K as a way to keep kids from losing interest in school later on.
"They know they're behind at a certain point and then they start pulling back," the president explained to a friendly crowd in Decatur.
PHOTOS | President Obama visits Decatur pre-K
VIDEO | President Obama's full speech in Decatur
"They act like they're disinterested in school because they're frustrated; they're not doing as well as they should; and then you may lose them. That's why on Tuesday night I proposed working with states like Georgia to make high quality pre-school available to every child in America. Every child."
The pre-K program is one of the few points of bipartisan accomplishment in Georgia.
"Georgia was the first state to have pre-K open to every 4 year old, so Georgia is a leader," said state representative Mary Margaret Oliver. "But we want to maintain our leadership and go for more quality 4-year-old placements."
Congressman Hank Johnson put it a little more succinctly, "We'll either pay dollars to educate kids or we'll pay prisons to house them."
Among the front-row VIP's was Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who said the president is right to take his agenda straight to the people.
"I think it's essential that he get out all over America and do what he did just explain it," Reed said. "The president is putting forth a series of choices."
But by putting Georgia on the marquee for his post-state-of-the-union tour, the president may also be sending a message that the state is back in play politically for democrats.
"Fulton County is overwhelming democrat strongly behind Obama," said Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves. "The state is turning blue. The demographics are changing."
"Georgia's definitely in play politically," agreed State Sen. Jason Carter. "I think it's great the president is here. But today really wasn't about politics. This was a policy event."
While the crowd was filled with educators and legislators, it was a child, appropriately, who managed to steal the spotlight for a moment. Seven-year-old Jordyn Johnson literally lunged through the throng to give the president a hug.
"At first I was a little bit shy, but then I felt good about myself, and I just went ahead and I didn't even know he knew my name," she said. "I feel very good! I'm never washing my hands because I got to hug him. I told him 'Happy Valentine's Day' and I gave him a Valentine."