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Poll: Majority of North Carolinans Believe Improving Economy Starts with "The Three Rs"

GRAPHIC: A majority of North Carolina voters from both parties believe investment in early childhood education will boost the state's economy. Graphic courtesy: N.C. Early Childhood Foundation.
GRAPHIC: A majority of North Carolina voters from both parties believe investment in early childhood education will boost the state's economy. Graphic courtesy: N.C. Early Childhood Foundation.
September 23, 2014

GARNER, N.C. - A whopping 83 percent of North Carolina voters from both political parties believe investing in early childhood learning programs will boost short- and long-term economic growth, according to a new bipartisan poll conducted by the N.C. Early Childhood Foundation and The First Five Years Fund.

Tracy Zimmerman, director of strategic communications for the N.C. Early Childhood Foundation, says the number one priority for those polled was making sure children get a strong start early in life so they perform better in school and find successful careers.

"North Carolina voters very clearly understand that when every child is given an opportunity to succeed, they will actually realize the return on investment from that," says Zimmerman.

Lawmakers in the Legislature's last session added $5 million to the state's pre-kindergarten budget, but it's not yet clear how that money will be allocated or how many additional children it will serve. Zimmerman says her organization found that three-quarters of the state's voters support expanding access to N.C. Pre-Kindergarten and Smart Start programs so more children can participate.

Beth Moore, owner and senior director of Little Stepping Stones school in Johnson County, says expanding early childhood education programs also helps children whose parents can afford private preschools.

"If we can get all the students on a level playing field, the children that have had the access aren't having to be remediated and sit through things they already know," she says. "They all get to excel at the same time."

Zimmerman says research indicates early childhood education and enrichment is the key to setting children on the path to success in school.

"Brains are not born, they're built, and the wiring that sets the tone for all future learning and health is formed in those earliest years," she says. "That's why they are in fact so important."

Earlier this year, a national poll commissioned by The First Five Years Fund found 71 percent of voters, including 60 percent of Republicans, support greater federal investments in early childhood education.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC