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Majority of North Carolina Voters Support Expansion of Early-Childhood Programs

Cross-posted from Politics K-12

A new early-education poll out Monday morning shows voters across the political spectrum in North Carolina support increased investments in early-childhood programs, including expanding teacher training, home-visiting programs, and access to preschool.

The results of the poll, conducted by the bipartisan team of Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates, were distributed to U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and the state legislature's Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis, who are battling it out in the nation's closest and most expensive midterm senatorial election race.

Specifically, the poll found that 74 percent of voters support greater investment in early-childhood education even if it temporarily increases the state deficit in the short term. Voters ranked ensuring that children get a strong start as a top priority for policymakers, second only to jobs and the economy and well ahead of reducing the tax burden on families.

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In addition to expanding access to various early-education programs, 88 percent of those polled want North Carolina to invest in training and classroom resources so that teachers can better teach each child in a way that addresses their individual needs.

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Education has been a hot button issue in the North Carolina Senate race, and political action committees have already invested millions of dollars in TV ads that either paint Hagan as a proxy of President Barack Obama or slam Tillis for slashing education funding in recent state budgets. Education was also the star in the first of three debates between the two candidates.

Kris Perry, the executive director of the First Five Years Fund, which advocates for early-childhood education and requested the poll, said she doesn't expect early education to become a hot-button campaign issue since it generally garners bipartisan support.

"There's not a huge advantage to either candidate to focus on it," she said.

But in light of the House and Senate bipartisan, bicameral deal on the Child Care and Development Block Grant, she hopes polls like this and others that her organization is planning in Colorado, Ohio, and Washington state push Congress to continue working together to increase access to early education.

"We know there are plenty of things that might move," she said.

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