Seventy percent of Americans support providing all low- and moderate-income four year olds with access to high quality preschool, according to a poll released Wednesday by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research. Half of Americans say they strongly support it.
The proposal, which as described to those surveyed would spend $10 billion a year for a decade to help states and local communities provide preschool through an increase on the cigarette tax, also gets bipartisan support. More than 80 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans were in favor. The plan also gets support from those who might not immediately be impacted by it: nearly 70 percent of those without children (and three-quarters of parents) and 65 percent of seniors (with nearly 80 percent support from those under 35).
Respondents also have a sense of urgency around the need for universal preschool. More than 85 percent said it was important, and it ranked second only to increasing jobs and economic growth. Three in five want Congress to take action now instead of waiting to consider it later.
President Obama has proposed a universal preschool initiative that would spend $75 billion in new funding to ensure “preschool for all” over the next decade by partnering with states.
Public support lines up with extensive research on the benefits of enacting such a plan. Children stand to see $11 of economic benefits over their lifetimes from staying in school, going to college, and avoiding teen pregnancy and crime for every dollar spent on quality preschool programs. The economy in general can expect $7 in savings for every dollar spent. Other research shows that universal programs increase human capital and economic output.
Yet the country is no where near universal access. States are spending the lowest amount per child in Pre-K in a decade, and overall the U.S. falls behind most developed peers in how much it spends on early childhood education and in enrollment.