A Bipartisan Push for Preschool… Without Washington

snyderEarlier this week, the New York Times ran an article, “Push for Preschool Becomes a Bipartisan Cause Outside Washington” but then revised the headline days later. It’s now titled, “Preschool Push Moving Ahead in Many States,” which fails to highlight the unique bi-partisan push to expand a human services program. 

In today’s highly charged political environment, many advocates are opting to address social problems with common-sense, research-driven approaches that will garner support from Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. Let’s recognize and support this. Partisan issues often undermine these efforts and reduce support for effective, non-controversial programs. Preschool is a prime example. While early education has repeatedly been shown to have many immediate and long-term benefits, support in Congress still waivers. 

In the short-term, new preschool programs create jobs, they provide low-income, working parents with much needed childcare, and they reduce the number of children that go on to repeat grades. Long-term benefits include reduced crime later in life, better academic performance, and increased rates of high-school completion and college attendance, among others. The National Collaboration for Youth, whose members include Child Trends, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Alliance for Children and Families, advocates increased spending for preschool programs and Head Start as a way to strengthen families and produce better outcomes for children. 

In fact, bi-partisan support for preschool is increasing at every level across the country, but fiscal conservatives in Congress refuse to get on board. They oppose any new or expanded social services that aren’t paid for, while also refusing to raise taxes or create new revenue streams. A plan to expand funding for preschool nationally through an increased tobacco tax was met with opposition from congressional Republicans. At the state and local level, however, politicians on both sides of the aisle see preschool as a win-win: it provides good outcomes for communities, and it’s a sure-fire way to win over minority and women voters.

Some states with projected budget surpluses in 2014 are proposing to use that money to invest in education and early-education programs. This includes Republican-led states like Kansas, Michigan, Texas, and South Carolina. Meanwhile, Congressional leaders have cut funding for Unemployment Insurance, SNAP, and Preschool Programs, laying the burden of deficit reduction disproportionately on low-income Americans, while simultaneously working to pass  a “tax extenders” bill that automatically renews a laundry list of tax breaks for wealthy Americans.

As the economy, our states, and the federal government begin to recover some of the footing we lost in the Great Recession, it is imperative that we invest in the programs and social supports that will continue to support the recovery and our long-term economic strength. Tax cuts only add to our growing deficit. Investing in preschool programs is bi-partisan for a reason—it works, and it’s what we need now to ensure our youngest citizens have the chance to continue the American tradition of living better than their parent’s generation. 

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