Effort under way to save Smart Start, BlueRidgeNow.com (03.31.2011)
RALEIGH — Business leaders from across the state joined former Gov. Jim Hunt at the General Assembly on March 23 to ask legislators to preserve funding for Smart Start.
Bankers, real estate agents, small business owners and farmers are among those who joined the governor to tell lawmakers that early childhood investments are vital to North Carolina’s economy.
The event included a news conference featuring Hunt; Robert A. Ingram, general partner of Hatteras Venture Partners; and Dr. Olson Huff, board chair of the North Carolina Partnership for Children Inc., the organization that leads Smart Start.
Last week, an independent study from Duke University found that children in counties that received more funding for Smart Start and More at Four performed better on third grade end-of-year tests. The study showed that these early childhood programs created a “spillover” effect benefiting all children in the community, even those who never participated in Smart Start-funded programs.
In addition to improved educational outcomes, business leaders explained to legislators that having high quality early education programs is essential to North Carolina’s economic recovery.
Early learning programs allow 380,000 North Carolina parents to work. In total, these families earn almost $12.5 billion annually, money that goes back into the community through income tax and the purchase of goods and services.
Tim Kriegel, chief financial officer of Selee Corp. in Hendersonville, told lawmakers, “One important benefit of the quality early care and education that Smart Start supports is that we are preparing the up-and-coming workforce to be good, high-quality employees capable of taking local businesses into the future and making them competitive worldwide.”
David Jacklin, director of Community Outreach at Park Ridge Health, also attended spoke in support of Smart Start.
“Dr. Olson Huff explained that the primary goal of the American Academy of Pediatrics is improving early brain and child development in young children, a goal that can be reached by continued funding for Smart Start and early care and education programs,” Jacklin said. “How can we argue with early childhood recommendations made by the American Academy of Pediatrics representing 66,000 pediatric physicians?”