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Parents, Teachers, School Officials Rally for the Children

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RALEIGH — Education is empowerment. That's what a group of parents, teachers and school administrators told Governor Jim Hunt in Raleigh Wednesday. They hope their meeting will help to ensure that all children have access to the early childhood care they need for success later in life.

North Carolina has been doing a lot of work to improve the quality of early childhood education . Despite those efforts, it is still viewed, on a national level, as one of the weakest states in terms of child care.

Children kicked off the rally with a chorus of the song "This Little Light of Mine". The governor used the occasion to shine a light on his commitment to improve early child care.

"Remember, good quality child care, good health care and support for parents," Hunt said from the podium. "Those are the three things we're committed to and we're committed to them for all the children in North Carolina."

Hunt said he wants the General Assembly to extend the Smart Start program. Advocate Gwendolyn Hunter, a grandmother of six young children, says Smart Start rescued her.

"There's no way I would have been able to get back in to the work force with six grandchildren and no day care," said Hunter. "There's no way I could afford to pay for six grandchildren to go to day care. So, I just want to say please, pass the laws. It helps. It really does."

Passage of the extension could be tough in the Republican-controlled house. Governor Hunt wants to expand the Smart Start program to include all 100 counties of N.C. Currently, the program is active in 55 counties.

There are about 10,000 families in the state considered working-poor. Advocates of Smart Start would like to see some programs extended to them, as well.

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Kelly Wright, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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