A new bipartisan poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research for the First Five Years Fund and supported by United Way of Florida, The Children’s Trust and The Children’s Movement of Florida, finds that Florida voters view early childhood education as a priority issue in the state and across the nation. Majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents support continued investments in early childhood programs in the state – including expanding access to the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK), School Readiness Program, and teacher training.

Nearly nine in ten (88 percent) of Florida voters believe that investments in early childhood programs will benefit Florida’s economy in the short and long term. Voters ranked ensuring children get a strong start as a top priority for policymakers, second only to growing jobs and the economy and well ahead of securing our borders.

“Investing in our children’s education is the best way to prepare our state for a prosperous future and strengthen our families – Florida voters know this firsthand,” said United Way of Florida President Ted Granger. “Our state has long prioritized expanding high quality early childhood opportunities, but we can do more and do better. There are still thousands of young children not engaged in top notch early learning programs, and Floridians, along with our elected officials, must work together to ensure all students are prepared for entering the K-12 years.”

The poll comes on the heels of unprecedented state action on early childhood education across the nation –in red and blue states alike. And In Florida, in particular there is strong bipartisan support for improving investments in early childhood programs that deliver positive results for children, families and taxpayers. Quality home visiting, early learning and preschool programs have proven to prepare children for school and life and produce strong education, health and economic outcomes.

More than eight in ten (81 percent) of Florida voters polled said they support programs that strengthen families, like voluntary parent education programs. Moreover, 54 percent of Florida voters said they were more likely to vote for candidates who support these investments – even higher among mothers (69 percent) and moderates (60 percent).

Voters are very concerned that children get a strong start in school and see high quality early childhood education as the answer. In addition to expanding access to the VPK and School Readiness Programs, nearly nine in ten (87 percent) voters want Florida to invest in training and classroom resources so that all preschool and early elementary school teachers are able to teach each child in a way that addresses their individual needs.

Three-quarters of Florida voters (75 percent) support greater federal investment in early childhood education if it increased the deficit in the short term but paid for itself in the long term by improving children’s education, health and economic situations.

Research from Nobel Prize-winning economist Professor James Heckman documents the outstanding economic return on investment from early childhood education. Investing in high-quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children from birth to age five yields a 7-10 percent return – per child, per year – through improved education, health, social and economic outcomes as well as the reduced need for social spending.

“Floridians have long understood the importance of ensuring access to pre-K is within the reach of its state’s children and families, but this poll illuminates how voters want to see their education tax dollars spent,” said FFYF Executive Director Kris Perry. “Floridians want to see policymakers do more to provide high quality early childhood education programs for children and families from birth to age five through more home visiting and parent education programs, as well as early education and child care for infants and toddlers. Strengthening existing programs and prioritizing investments in quality early childhood development programs starting at birth is the best way to produce the largest return on investment. Voters in Florida and across the country understand this. Now is the time for policymakers to act on this knowledge.”

About the First Five Years Fund

The First Five Years Fund helps America achieve better results in education, health and economic productivity through investments in quality early childhood education programs for disadvantaged children. FFYF provides knowledge, data, and advocacy – persuading federal policymakers to make investments in the first five years of a child’s life that create greater returns for all. www.ffyf.org