Early learning needs attract bipartisan support

Early learning needs attract bipartisan support

(District of Columbia) A new poll shows broad bipartisan support for increased funding of early learning programs including child care and preschool.

The First Five Years Fund, an advocacy group based in the nation’s capital, reported that 79 percent of voters want Congress and the Trump administration to find common ground to improve services to children under the age of five.

The finding included 80 percent of voters identifying themselves as supporters of President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, along with 79 percent of those who said they voted for Hillary Clinton.

“At a time when divisive rhetoric, calls for resistance, and partisan distrust dominate the political headlines across the country, public support for investing in quality early childhood education from birth through age five has emerged as a unifying issue among American voters of every political persuasion,” the group said in a statement.

The poll findings, which are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 voters in the 2016 presidential election, are similar to a survey conducted last spring when 90 percent of those interviewed said early learning needs to be a bigger national priority.

The First Five poll was taken over a five day period ending on May 2. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey was released as Congressional leaders and the White House negotiate over the 2018 federal budget. In addition to asking for $1.4 billion to be set aside in a voucher program for school choice, Trump also wants cut overall federal education support by $9 billion.

Among the targets is $250 million that Congress had been offering to states and districts to help develop new preschool programs.

The grants were part of former President Barack Obama’s campaign during his second term to expand high quality early learning programs throughout the country. Considered one of the few federal programs to actually have an impact, the grants were conditioned with the requirement that participating programs had to employ pre-K teachers with bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education or a related field, pay them wages similar to K-12 teachers, offer full-day programs and use an evidence-based curriculum.

Other highlights from the Frist Five poll show that:

  • 89 percent of voters support making quality early education for children from birth through age five, including child care, more affordable for working families;
  • High income voters were just as likely as middle class workers to say only some or few child care programs are affordable and high-quality;
  • 78 percent of all voters support giving first-time parents home visits from early learning professionals;
  • 21 percent of voters said Congress and the president are paying enough attention to early childhood education; and
  • 74 percent of those surveyed said that quality early childhood education sets children up for academic success in elementary school.