Hunt defends pre-kindergarten programs against cuts

Posted March 1, 2011
Updated March 2, 2011

— Former Gov. Jim Hunt championed the creation of the Smart Start early childhood education program more than a decade ago. Now, he's coming to the program's defense as lawmakers consider ending it.

"The very idea of even talking about closing that or cutting that drastically is just ridiculous," Hunt said Tuesday.

Republican legislative leaders last week set a $10.5 billion target for education spending in the 2011-12 fiscal year, which starts in July. Among the ideas they suggested for cuts was consolidating the Smart Start and More at Four pre-kindergarten programs or eliminating them altogether.

Smart Start provides health screenings and developmental testing for low-income and special needs youngsters, as well as education programs for them and their parents. The program received about $182 million in state funding this year.

More at Four, which was created several years ago to provide an educational boost for 4-year-olds at risk of falling behind in kindergarten and elementary school, received about $160 million in funding this year.

Gov. Beverly Perdue has proposed cutting each program's budget by 5 percent next year to help balance the state budget.

"I can't even imagine what some of our children and families would do if we no longer had these programs," said Nedra Wicker, executive director of A Safe Place Child Development Center in Garner.

Smart Start program Hunt defends pre-kindergarten programs against cuts

Wicker's program provides 4- and 5-year-olds with reading, writing and math skills, as well as time for art and creativity.

"It's giving them a great foundation, a great start," she said.

Hunt cited studies that show children in early education programs develop better math and English skills and that students who fall behind in the early elementary school grades are less likely to be successful when they get to high school – if they get there at all.

"If you care about children doing well in the schools, going on and being good workers and having jobs and a strong economy, you have to support Smart Start, More at Four and early childhood programs," he said.

Sen. Jerry Tillman, co-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, said sacrifices need to be made to erase a projected $2.4 billion deficit.

"Good programs are going to suffer," said Tillman, R-Randolph, a retired school administrator. "We've got to deal with what we've got."


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  • jzdukefan Mar 2, 2011

    Yeah! How is it that inmates on death row get what ever they want. Literally what ever they want. Magazine subscriptions, rugs for their cells etc etc. Thats BS. Why dont they cut that out of their budget. Hello they killed innocent people, some being children and our tax money is supporting their wants.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 2, 2011

    "Isn't that what schools are for?"

    You could make that argument, but at a time when we have budget deficits, little money spent on advanced or gifted students, classroom supply shortages, underpaid teachers, and a country that lags behind other industrialized countries in education, I don't feel these programs are very cost effective. With unlimited money, maybe. Otherwise its just money taken from other, more productive items.

  • soccerus Mar 2, 2011

    I read the article you referenced, then went to Ramer's Georgetown website and then to more articles. What I get out of these articles is, they work but they need improvement and more emphasis placed on continuing the child's(children's) development. Isn't that what schools are for? Is this wasted money? Is money for prison or other forms of reform better spent?

  • Plenty Coups Mar 2, 2011

    soccerus- The article is referring to a federal study. It's not about the article, it's about the study. If you disagree with the study, show me evidence to back up your claim. (I'm not interested in seeing only initial gains that have faded by middle school). BTW, I have been to a school and I have seen what it produces. I have also talked to elementary (and middle school) teachers who reaffirm what the study shows. Sure, it helps them be better prepared for school but there's no staying power. There's no expectations being reinforced daily. No role models.

  • soccerus Mar 2, 2011

    PlentyCoups, articles don't teach children. Go to a school that has this program and spend some time seeing what it produces. Cherrypicking articles to prove one's point does one thing, satisfies that person.

  • Plenty Coups Mar 2, 2011

    soccerus-"Children cannot, by their own ability, choose their childhood home environment."

    You're right, they can't and it is sad but it is also true that the state can't make up for bad parenting. The state can't really be 24/7 and studies show that any initial gains through headstart/more at four soon fade. I wish they didn't but they do. It's not cost effective or apparently, effective much at all. (other than initially) See this article. Other studies have had similar results.

  • jzdukefan Mar 2, 2011

    I just wanted to let you know that I am very conservative.

  • soccerus Mar 2, 2011

    My wife teaches pre-k and she sees it's success every day. The children she has taught that are in higher grades now are, almost all, doing very well in their subject and social performance. Without pre-k a very high percentage of them would be lost by the fourth grade. Children cannot, by their own ability, choose their childhood home environment. This money is not "free daycare" as some of you so wittily have named it. Do you complain about the billions wasted in NCLB or even "nation building" in Iraq?

  • jzdukefan Mar 2, 2011

    LOL! LETSEE.... Cant you think of something better than a shrud indecent statement about a 3 year old child? Wow! I know those professors at State would be proud of you. What dignity you have. Thats a great way to put yourself and the college you graduated from to shame.

  • jzdukefan Mar 2, 2011

    This is a sorry way for our political figures to lead us into a socialized society. All they are trying to prove is that they can control everything. Well we are going to cut that and we will cut this. Did you know that good ol Bev is proposing to cut a program that provides immunizations for children whose families cant afford them as well. What does that mean for us and our children? Our children will be attending school with other children who havent had appropriate immunizations. Yeah lets cut that one too. No no no our tax dollars shouldnt cover that either should it? You people make me sick to my stomach. I will continue to pay taxes and continue to give to those who try and who are in need. Children are our future. Do you want retirement when you get older or do you want our children to be just like these selfish individuals? Food for thought! I say cut their salaries by 10% each.