Both candidates want to keepSmart Start, but add a program for 4-year-olds with an emphasis on preparing them for school.
Smart Start pays to have people read to children, like the ones attending a day care center in Rolesville. Owner Michelle Gay says Smart Start has helped her center tremendously.
"What we're trying to do is to prepare the children, get them ready to start school. Through the help of Smart Start, we're able to do that," she says.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Vinroot believes too much of the Smart Start money goes to non-academic things like health screenings.
"I'm not convinced yet that we can make a case for better academic performance because of Smart Start," says Vinroot.
In 1996, Vinroot called the program "False Start." Now, he supports it, but wants to change its focus to academics.
"I think that if we're going to justify 300 million dollars on early childhood development, we must be getting a smarter start out of those poor children, in particular, who I think badly need the academic preparation they're not getting," Vinroot says.
"I would continue to support Smart Start," says Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Easley. "I know my opponent calls it 'False Start,' but I think it's a good program and I know it's working."
Easley wants to keep Smart Start and add a statewide pre-kindergarten program.
"Pre-K would be an academic focus," says Easley. "It is not designed to be a social welfare program. It is designed to teach kids so that they are coming to school, not only ready to learn, but already knowing something."
Both candidates agree that should be the ultimate goal.
In a Your Voice, Your Vote poll in September, 78 percent of those polled believe the state should continue Smart Start.
For more details on where the candidates stand on the issue of early childhood education, read Tuesday'sNews and Observer.