Local News

Parents, Child-Care Providers Rally To Protect Smart Start Funding

Posted June 6, 2002 1:02 a.m. EDT

— State lawmakers created

Smart Start

in 1993 with the promise of providing all of North Carolina's children with access to high-quality early childhood education.

The latest budget proposal slashes Smart Start funding by almost one-fourth. Angry protesters say lawmakers need to finish what they started.

Parents and child-care providers from across the state braved the heat Wednesday to protest budget cuts in programs that benefit kids.

The budget proposal cuts 23 percent of the Smart Start funding by $50 million.

"Our children are our most precious commodity. We must take care of them. We must keep the promise to provide quality early childhood experiences," said parent Flo Thompson.

Organizers are asking people to sign a petition. So far, they have gotten 10,000 signatures from across the state.

They are also handing out postcards for people to mail to lawmakers asking them not to cut funding for these programs.

"Anytime you can get the issues in front of the people, not just the Legislature but the general public, it's a better case for us," said Pam Dowdy of Wake County Smart Start.

Many lawmakers oppose the cuts, but said they do not know how to avoid them.

"If we have to make the magnitude of cuts put out there, it will be devastating, really," said Sen. Bill Martin, D-Guilford County.

Another program slated to be cut is the T.E.A.C.H. program, which provides scholarships to child-care providers who want to further their education.