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4:14 pm
Wed July 31, 2013

Poll: 70 Percent of American Voters Support Early Childhood Education Expansion

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Seventy percent of American voters support efforts to expand early childhood development programs, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The non-partisan First Five Years Fund released results were released Wednesday. It found that 60 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of independents and 84 percent of Democrats want expansion of programs that prepare children for Kindergarten.

They were responding to this:

Respondents were presented with a plan put before Congress, which broadly outlined the plan’s features as well as how the $10 billion-per-year-for-ten-year initiative would be financed.
“Congress is considering a plan that helps states and local communities provide better early childhood education programs to parents of children from birth to five. It provides ten billion dollars per year for ten years in grants to states to provide all low and moderate income four year olds with voluntary access to high quality preschool programs. It also makes available voluntary programs in high quality early education and child care for infants and toddlers, as well as home visiting and parent education. The plan would be paid for by a 94-cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax and not add to the federal budget deficit.”

In all, those efforts are supported by 70 percent of Americans—and support increases to 77 percent if a plan doesn’t add to the national deficit.

The results were discussed Wednesday in Washington by the Center for American Progress and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, two groups that are often at odds, First Five Years Fund spokesman Rich Neimand said.

He says the poll also found that the majority of Americans don’t feel that most children are prepared when entering Kindergarten.

“That really shows this feeling that something is wrong out there in terms of the talent pool that is arriving at school and that that is connected to many o the problems we’re having with education and that clearly voters want to see that fixed," he said.

Louisville child advocates have raised concerns this year because of steep cuts to a state subsidy program meant to help low-income working families cover childcare costs. Advocates argue that those cuts, caused by state and federal budget constraints, will deprive thousands of Kentucky children from early childhood development programs.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke in Louisville last month to push a $75 billion plan to help states expand early childhood education. As noted above, President Obama's plan would be paid for through a hike in the tobacco sales tax.

Neimand said members of Congress are also exploring other ways to pay for expanding programs.

The results also indicate the people who support expanding early childhood education should contact Congress members, he argued.

“Evidently, the frustration the public has in the lack of investment in young children, the public needs to express," he said. "They need to get out and tell their legislators that they want to see something happen.”

Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat representing Kentucky's Third District, supports the president's plan, a spokesman said. We've also reached out to Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell and will update when we hear back.

Update: A spokesman for McConnell says his staff is reviewing the study.

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