On Wednesday, the First Five Years Fund and the Grow America Stronger coalition released findings from a national survey of registered voters to gauge public reception on early childhood education in the U.S. and the results should leave early childhood advocates shouting from rooftops. The poll was done by a bipartisan research team – Hart Research and Public Opinion Strategies – resulting in a high validity of poll results due to the spectrum of political viewpoints polled as well as the objective framing of the questions. When asked about their top national priorities, 86 percent of voters polled identified children getting a strong start in life, coming in second only to increasing jobs and economic growth. Coming in a close third was improving the quality of our public schools at 85 percent – demonstrating that a strong start coupled with high quality K-12 education is what voters want our nation to prioritize. These all came in above reducing the tax burden on families, which is important to remember when discussing funding priorities with elected officials.
Additionally, more than two-thirds of the polled voters say that half or fewer children start kindergarten with the needed skills. We know this translates to teachers spending more classroom time with children who start kindergarten under-prepared, which affects all children in the classroom not just the children who are behind. This is particularly important to remember when we talk about providing high quality early childhood programming to the lowest-income children or children with the greatest risk factors – this is actually beneficial to all young children when they enter kindergarten together.
Seven-in-ten voters (including 60% of Republicans, 64% of Independents and 84% of Democrats) voiced their support of federal efforts to help states expand access to high quality early childhood education programs. When reiterated that these same efforts would not add to the national deficit, support increased further, with 72% Republicans, 71% Independents, and 88% Democrats in support.
In Michigan, we know that there’s broad support among our state legislators for high quality early childhood education as evidenced by the historic expansion of the Great Start Readiness Program. And, an opportunity to build off of our preschool efforts to expand quality early childhood education is possible through a deficit neutral early childhood education plan that is gaining momentum in Washington, D.C. and across the country. This state-federal partnership would further leverage Michigan’s own efforts to expand four-year-old preschool and support additional efforts to build a more comprehensive early childhood system beginning at birth. And with 63 percent of voters wanting Congress to act now on this issue, what are we waiting for?
Learn more about the poll results and the state-federal early childhood plan at the Grow America Stronger website.