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Election 2012 and the Outlook for Early-Childhood Education

Though it never rose to prominence in the presidential campaign, early-childhood education nevertheless will feel the impact of last night's election results across the country at all levels of government.

With President Barack Obama's re-election, we can and should expect his administration to move ahead perhaps even more aggressively with its reforms to Head Start, and, in the event that the fiscal outlook improves, possibly other competitive grants that could become available for states seeking to improve their early-learning systems.

In North Carolina—a state long held up as a leader in the early-childhood realm—the election of Republican Pat McCrory as governor raises many questions about the future of that state's publicly funded early-learning programs and whether they would remain a top priority in a GOP administration. Outgoing Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue has been battling with Republicans in the legislature for more than a year over the state's prekindergarten program, seeking to expand access as GOP lawmakers have moved to limit it. McCrory, a former mayor of Charlotte, campaigned on an education platform that was focused on offering more school choice and assigning letter grades to schools. In earlier interviews in his campaign, McCrory said the "concept of pre-K is proven."

Campaign 2012

The election of Republican Mike Pence to the governorship in Indiana presents a clearer outlook for potentially more investment in early-childhood programs in that state. Pence, a former congressman, writes in his education platform that he supports "quality, community pre-K initiatives" and that he would "examine opportunities to increase access to pre-K for underprivileged children." He also has an anti-poverty platform that centers largely on the well-being of children that strikes me as somewhat unusual for a Republican governor, although it does focus in part on the role that married parents and intact families play in reducing poverty.

Perhaps the biggest victory for early childhood—albeit a hyperlocal one—was in San Antonio, where Mayor Juli├ín Castro's bid to raise the local sales tax to support a citywide, all-day prekindergarten program passed in a close vote.

And perhaps the most decisive defeat for early-childhood programs came in California, where voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 38, a measure that would have raised billions of dollars in taxes on middle- and upper-income earners to support early-learning programs and K-12. California voters did approve a competing measure backed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to temporarily raise the income tax on the wealthiest state residents to support the state's public schools.

No doubt there are plenty more early-learning angles to examine post-election. For more analysis on the 2012 election results and early-childhood issues from experts, you can join a call tomorrow with the First Five Years Fund.

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