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A Hands-on Approach to Protecting Education in North Carolina

March 16, 2011

RALEIGH, N. C. - It's a 21st Century way to stress the importance of early learning. An interactive, multimedia exhibit visited Raleigh for a day, offering North Carolina lawmakers a chance to gain greater understanding of the benefits of early childhood education.

The "Invest in Us" exhibit includes information about how quality education makes a positive difference for members of every generation. Program Associate Marc Garcia says the exhibit is also a new way to reach out to decision-makers.

"This is very unique. It takes all of the knowledge that we have about why investing in early learning is so important and makes it digestible for state legislators."

The exhibit has already traveled to 15 states in the past year, with the goal of prompting lawmakers to think twice about cutting funding for early childhood programs as they grapple with state budget deficits. North Carolina's Smart Start program partnered with the First Five Years Fund, which developed the exhibit, to bring it to Raleigh.

As North Carolina lawmakers work to close the budget gap, programs like Smart Start are facing potential cuts or even elimination. Danielle Billingsley, a mother of three from Wake County, explains how the program has changed her life, and that of her children.

"Having these programs in place has allowed me to obtain my college degree. I don't know how, as a single mom, I would be able to afford day care independently."

Smart Start says its programs help hundreds of thousands of children from birth to age five, in all 100 counties in North Carolina.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC