Voters will decide control of the U.S. Senate, the fate of competing Seattle preschool plans and a slate of other important issues in two weeks, and new polls suggest they also will support early learning in key states.
In the latest sign that early education investment is a bipartisan issue, a majority of Republican and Democratic voters in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado and Georgia agreed that making sure children get a strong start in life is a top priority, according to one poll released this week by First Five Years Fund.
In all of these states – most of which are home to races that could determine control of the U.S. Senate – voters agreed that providing enough funding for early learning is more important than cutting taxes.
These results mirror the deep support early learning enjoys in Washington state, where 74 percent of surveyed voters agreed that ensuring a strong start in life is second only to increasing jobs and economic growth, a separate poll by Thrive by Five Washington found. A strong majority of Washington voters also said that when children are ready for kindergarten, K-12 dollars go further.
“There is strong demand from voters of diverse political and demographic backgrounds to make sure children arrive at school with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed,” First Five Years Fund’s executive director Kris Perry said in a summary of the poll results. “They want their states to invest and they want the federal government to help. Congress must act now to increase federal investment and partner with states to provide local access to quality early childhood programs for our youngest learners.”
The polls are more than a couple of electoral snapshots before voters head to the polls. Instead, these are the latest endorsements of early learning by the public – support that politicians should, and in many cases are, noticing.
Within this polling is a rich vein of support for one initiative in particular: the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge. Thrive’s poll found Washington voters support continuing key elements of their state’s Race to the Top work: raising the quality of licensed child care through Early Achievers and improving kindergarten transitions with Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS).
With funding from these grants scheduled to run out in 2015, this support will be critical in continuing the work. Voters in two other states that won Early Learning Challenge grants in the first round, North Carolina and Ohio, also showed strong support for early education.
Next week we will explore support for Race to the Top work among some of the nine original winners. Stay tuned.