After this week's election, we don't need to decipher what Americans think about education. They've already told us. On Tuesday, voters elected a record number of new governors and thousands of new state lawmakers. With difficult budget decisions ahead in nearly every state, elected officials will have to prioritize.
The good news is that people have already weighed in to reveal that their priority is education, especially in the early years. In a recent Pew Center on the States report, "Facing Facts: Public Attitudes and Fiscal Realities in Five Stressed States," a survey of at least 1,000 residents each in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, and New York showed striking agreement that public education is their top priority to protect from spending cuts.
The Maryland Family Network's July 2010 survey of registered Maryland voters found that 81 percent think it's important for the state to expand access to pre-kindergarten for all children whose parents choose to enroll them. When asked specifically about whether or not Maryland should continue to invest in pre-k given the current state of the economy, 73 percent of voters said that investment should continue.
Preschool California's recent survey of Latino voters in California, "Latino Voter Poll: Early Learning is a Winning Issue," found that 85 percent think children who attend preschool have an advantage over children who do not attend. And two-thirds of Latino voters think California is doing too little to ensure all children have access to affordable, high-quality preschool.
Even during tough economic times, and no matter who is in office, Americans support funding smart investments in programs like pre-k that provide the strongest returns for taxpayers and the greatest benefits for families.
This was included in the panel discussion Education Electioneering available in it's entirety on the National Journal Web site.