Inspired by the children’s classic, The Little Engine that Could, NC moms and children rolled up to the General Assembly yesterday aboard a trolley wearing engineers’ caps and bearing messages from NC parents reminding state legislators that “we think you can” find a way to protect programs essential to North Carolina’s future even in this tough budget year. See the video on WRAL!
According to Beth Messersmith, NC Campaign Director for MomsRising, North Carolina finds itself today in much the same position as the children in The Little Engine that Could. In the story, there was a trainload of things that children needed that had to get to the other side of the mountain. It was a hard journey, and many were asked to help but didn’t. When all others refused, one little engine stepped up to the plate despite the overwhelming obstacles because he knew that it was critical to take care of the children.
“Today North Carolina legislators face a similar decision,” said Messersmith. “It’s going to be a hard budget session with difficult choices, but North Carolina’s children are relying on them to have the will to do the right thing and take a balanced approach to the budget. These parents and children are here today to remind them that ‘we think you can, we think you can….”
Thank you to Beth and all of the MomsRising moms for speaking up on behalf of Smart Start. Smart Start messages on trains included:
“The first 5 years of a child’s life are the most important years for our youngest citizens. Please give them a chance to become our future leaders by keeping the funding to the Smart Start, More at Four and Subsidy Programs that help ensure that they get high quality child care and the opportunity to succeed in school and in life. Thank you for valuing young children now and for keeping the programs that make the positive difference for them.”- Patricia, Winston-Salem
“Smart Start has been extremely beneficial to my children in NC!” – Nancy, Saluda
Today, the GOP Leadership GOP announced spending targets for the General Assembly budget committees. They have directed the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Education and Health and Human Services to consider consolidating/eliminating Smart Start and More at Four.
Dr. Olson Huff, Board Chair of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc.
“I am saddened for the children of North Carolina that the General Assembly would even consider eliminating Smart Start or More at Four.
Children, particularly our youngest children, need to be priority one. It is not hyperbole to state that the lives of a generation of children hang in the balance. The impact of continued disinvestment will be compounded over generations. We know too much to let this happen. Neuroscience has changed how we think of the earliest years. Images of the brain show that the experiences children have early in life literally shape the wiring of the brain and strongly affect whether a child grows up to be a healthy, productive member of society.
In the words of my colleague Dr. Jack Shonkoff of the Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, ‘Once you know what we know about brain development, how do you morally walk away?’
North Carolinians do not want to walk away. In fact they want more early childhood investments, not less. During the height of the recession, 800 parents, business leaders, elected officials, health care providers, and early childhood professionals agreed that ensuring access to high-quality early care and education programs needed to be a top priority for the state. Similarly, a recent poll by Public Policy Polling that found the majority of NC voters do not support cuts to early childhood funding. And more than 2.000 North Carolinians have signed the Children’s Pledge asking policymakers to protect early childhood investments.
Members of the General Assembly were elected to do the ‘people’s business.’ The people want to ensure that all children have a fair opportunity to succeed.”
The Civitas Institute has launched a campaign against Smart Start. Their first public attack is on child care subsidy. They’ve sent it to Members of the General Assembly and to the media. They make numerous false statements to blame Smart Start for families losing child care subsidy, rather than acknowledging that less money in the system means that fewer children are served. Civitas is doing their best to attempt to discredit Smart Start at all levels.
Our children are counting on us to ensure that that doesn’t happen. We’ve sent the email below to all members of the General Assembly. We must follow-up in force. Call your elected officials and tell them the truth about Smart Start. Remember, it is your support that has helped transformed this state and our early education system with enormous benefit to young children and their families.
Download the Letter to Members of the General Assembly
Dear Members of the General Assembly,
Earlier this week, the Civitas Institute published a press release making false statements about Smart Start. I can’t sit back and allow them to threaten the well-being of our state’s young children and their families. Nor, can I let the reputation of one of our state’s treasures, Smart Start, suffer at the hands of such politically motivated malice.
There is no scandal here. The fact is there is a significant budget crisis that required state and local decision makers to make difficult choices. Members of the General Assembly and the Governor have had to make very hard decisions during the economic downturn of the last few years. I know many struggled with those cuts, but their struggle does not lessen the impact of their actions. The bottom line is that the state cut funds that help working families afford child care. They did it during the last fiscal year. They did it again at the beginning of this fiscal year. And they did it again in the middle of this fiscal year. At the same time, more and more families are eligible for subsidy because they are now underemployed and earning far less than they did a few years ago.
Since November, the Civitas Institute has bombarded Smart Start and its local partnerships with numerous public records requests. They’ve demanded information quickly and have included questions that are outrageous, asking staff for opinions and to respond to far flung predictions. It’s unclear what they intend to do with all this information, but based on this recent episode, I have no faith that they will share it honestly or with integrity.
It seems that the Civitas Institute will go to any extreme to advance their agenda to eliminate Smart Start. For accurate information, please contact The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., or any Smart Start local partnership. We are confident that the work of Smart Start has produced meaningful results for the state of North Carolina and that we have consistently proven our trustworthiness.
Dr. Olson Huff
Board Chair, The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc.
Olson Huff, MD, FAAP
Chairman of the Board
Sixty Second Parent™
The Triumphant Child™
On February 11, Rep. Elmer Floyd, Rep. Rick Glazier, Rep. Marvin Lucas, Sen. Wesley Meredith, and Rep. Diane Parfitt toured a Cumberland County child care and learned about how the child care industry benefits children, families, and the workforce in their community.
The legislators spent two hours learning about Smart Start’s impact in the community from child care providers, a parent from the “Teens N Tots” program and board members of the Cumberland County Partnership for Children.
Ask federal leaders to ensure that FY 2011 appropriations are sufficient for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), Head Start, and Early Head Start so that 300,000 children do not lose these vital supports. Let them know you want them to support early intervention programs for infants, toddler and preschool-age children and to initiate the Early Learning Challenge Fund to encourage states to strengthen their early learning systems.
This will help us build a smarter, healthier, and stronger America. Together, these key programs enable low-income parents to afford the reliable child care they need to work and provide at-risk children with the early learning experiences they need for success in school and life.
Call your North Carolina Congressional Representatives and ask to speak to the Legislative Assistant who handles child care and Head Start. Talk about the importance of funds for child care and Head Start/Early Head Start to your communities,
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will begin developing the budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12. This is the committee that will determine funding for Smart Start. Now is the time to thank Co-Chairs Justin Burr and Nelson Dollar for their past support of Smart Start and encourage them to ensure that funding continues. North Carolina’s future depends on its ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation of children. Smart Start supports children and the economy by providing high quality child care options for working families. The Smart Start Fact Sheet and website provide additional information.
Representative Justin Burr
NC House of Representatives
300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 538
Raleigh, NC 27603-5925
Representative Nelson Dollar
NC House of Representatives
300 N. Salisbury Street, Room 307B1
Raleigh, NC 27603-5925