Hunt pleads case for Smart Start to lawmakers

Posted March 23, 2011

— Former Gov. Jim Hunt and a number of business leaders urged lawmakers Wednesday to avoid damaging the Smart Start early childhood program Hunt helped create nearly 20 years ago.

Hunt said he could accept the 5 percent reduction to Smart Start funding that Gov. Beverly Perdue called for in her budget proposal, but he suggested deeper cuts would harm the nationally recognized program.

"When you've got something this good, you don't want to mess it up," he said.

The four-term Democratic governor worked with the General Assembly in the 1990s to create Smart Start, which funds health screenings, parent training and child care to families so children are prepared to enter kindergarten.

Although he's been out of office for 11 years, Hunt still has a rock-star quality in the Legislative Building, and he has been using that clout to get his message across to lawmakers. He said he has spent more time in the building in the past few weeks than he had in the past several years combined.

"I'm just trying to educate people," he said. "We have a lot of new members of the legislature, and we want them to learn about what this is, how it works and the good it's doing."

"I can tell you from having been an appropriations chairman while he was governor, until they give him what he wants, he will be unrelenting," Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt said.

Smart Start supporter Hunt pleads case for Smart Start to lawmakers

Sen. Jerry Tillman, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, said he expects lawmakers will consolidate Smart Start with More at Four, another program aimed at preschool children, and cut their combined budget by at least 10 percent.

"(We'll) try to come out with one program that's streamlined, that's merged and is effective," said Tillman, R-Randolph.

Still, he said, he recognizes the force he has to deal with in Hunt until the budget is approved.

"He was a very influential governor, (and) he still lobbies hard," Tillman said.

“We’ve got to keep this help going for the children and for the economy. Listen, our economic future and our jobs future is at stake,” Hunt said. “In some ways, the earliest education is the most important education.”


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  • Proud Black Constitutionalist Mar 25, 2011

    "And if you can't afford to send your child to a private institution, ...tough."


    Then, don't have the brat(s).

  • blackdog Mar 25, 2011

    "Send your kid to private school: don't allow the government to educate your kid."
    Proud Black Conservative

    And if you can't afford to send your child to a private institution, ...tough.

    Early childhood development is key to the education of each and every child. We cannot simply "wait" until the third or fourth grade, for them to learn to read. A child is like a sponge for learning up to age seven on average. After that, it is more difficult to be able to teach the basics of language and reading. Those with poor educational involvement, fail to recognize the importance of early chilhood development. It is vital, we as a nation, educate our children better. ALL children.

  • nevergo55mph Mar 25, 2011

    Before you discount the "Smart Start" program..go visit a Smart Start Facility...spend some time in that environment..place yourself in those children's shoes and experience what can and should be offered to EVERY child. And yes, Smart Start was started to give every child in the daycare setting an equal opportunity at Health, Nutrition and Education..but it also offers additional opportunities, not for just the child..but also to the facility itself, to the teachers within, and to the parents of the children that are cared for there. Smart Start wants what is BEST for Children and their environment. Teaching a child to read is a MUST if we expect them to flourish in society..but that is only one aspect of their education. There is a favorite story that is read in most day cares called..."If You Give A Mouse A Cookie". You could say its kinda like giving a child a good early start..give them that small start and they will want MORE! Don't You want More for All Children???

  • nevergo55mph Mar 25, 2011

    It isn't a matter of AFFORDING your children..it is a matter of parents NEEDING daycare and as such..Children getting the MOST out of it...sure..(send 'em to a private baby sitter..you wont pay much less for a full time one) what will you get?? Poss. a good one, but most likely one who will continue their normal routine and your child wont get a lot of the (early) education that has PROVEN to be beneficial to ALL children. And I disagree that just "learning to read" comment...a child who is deprived of social/emotional education is off on a wrong foot, so to speak. Daycare can offer a child things that they might not get with a private babysitter...or even with their own parents in some cases. A Smart Start facility offers nutrition as well as a 'guided' education for your young children. Your children are introduced to different aspects of education in a much smaller setting, thus giving them time to acclimate and explore BEFORE it becomes a matter of "passing" to the next level.

  • The Fox Mar 24, 2011

    [Send your kid to private school: don't allow the government to educate your kid.]We did and the results have been profitable for our family.

  • Proud Black Constitutionalist Mar 24, 2011

    Send your kid to private school: don't allow the government to educate your kid.

  • MakoII Mar 24, 2011

    "I'm tired of supporting everyone else's kids. If you can't afford them, don't have them!"
    -Proud Black Conservative

    Even when you're right, you're so totally wrong.

    Education is a societal need to a basic point. If there are ways to increase a kids ability to read at grade level, we SHOULD spend the money to do it, regardless of parenting.

    My problem with this program is it's spotty at best.

    We can produce 100% success IN Elementary School for "normal" kids by just narrowing the focus to learning to read.

    Not blowing it on daycare, or requiring certified teachers in daycare, raising their cost beyond what is ALREADY a mortgage payment.

  • miketroll3572 Mar 24, 2011

    Ask any elementary school teacher? If it were not for stay at home moms and Smart Start, there job would be unbearable. Some of you on this blog have NEVER stepped foot in a classroom.

    What a pathetic false statement. Aparently you never stepped a foot in the classroom either because you can't spell.

  • Proud Black Constitutionalist Mar 24, 2011

    I'm tired of supporting everyone else's kids. If you can't afford them, don't have them!

  • MakoII Mar 24, 2011

    Audits of this program on a local level show that HALF failed their audit by serveral measures. Not spending the specified amount on what the program wants them too. Over drawing. Money mismanagement.

    So clearly, oversight is not effective on the money side.