Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research is a bipartisan research team which conducted a nationwide poll of voters last month on early childhood education (pre-kindergarten). They found that an overwhelming 86% of American voters ranked it as an important national priority — second only to increasing jobs and economic growth. Even more important as concerns setting public policy, 70% were in support of a having the federal government do more to achieve better early learning.
The poll found that 60% of Republicans, 64% of Independents and 84% of Democrats supported the following broadly outlined federal plan to help local communities and states to provide better early education:
” 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.”
Currently, The U.S, ranks next to last in spending on early education versus 31 other countries. Meanwhile, studies confirm that early education provides the biggest return on investment:
Research by Mr. Heckman and others confirms that investment in the early education of disadvantaged children pays extremely high returns down the road. It improves not only their cognitive abilities but also crucial behavioral traits like sociability, motivation and self-esteem.
Studies that have followed children through their adult lives confirm enormous payoffs for these investments, whether measured in improved success in college, higher income or even lower incarceration rates.
With such broad public support across all parties, it still remains to be seen if Congress can step up to the challenge…
Lastly, if you’re looking for information on early learning and child care in our area, the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh has a resource page here.