The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to legislators asking for continued investments in Smart Start.
Dear Senator Berger and Representative Tillis:
The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce would like to express its support for North Carolina’s Smart Start program. We understand that this year’s state budget presents a tremendous challenge and that many programs are facing unprecedented cuts. It is our hope that North Carolina’s nationally recognized Smart Start program will not receive disproportionate cuts nor be severely curtailed in its ability to serve children, families and their communities. Smart Start programs provide a network of developmentally appropriate early education & care, parenting and health activities for North Carolina’s children birth to five years of age. State funding through Smart Start serves to support many small businesses in our community which directly employ hundreds of workers. Families using Smart Start childcare centers are enabled to remain in the workforce, knowing that their children are cared for in a quality loving environment.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a 2010 report that stated, “Early childhood education has a tremendous impact on the national economic security and viability of the American dream.” In North Carolina, 59% of all children under six live in families where all parents work and, each year, early learning programs allow 380,000 parents in our state to work. Smart Start has been instrumental in increasing child care quality since its inception in 1993 and, preliminary research released this month by Duke University, found that investments in Smart Start generate broad educational benefits.
Smart Start Rowan is our local administrator. As a local non-profit member of the Chamber of Commerce, Smart Start Rowan grew out of a local public-private partnership of community leaders in 1997. Using Smart Start funds blended with other revenue streams, the organization has been able to invest in our community’s children and families through vital and comprehensive support of the child care industry, preventive health programs for young children, early learning and pre-literacy programs, parent education and support and payment for child care expenses often in flexible ways that meet the needs of our community. Smart Start Rowan continues to be a reliable source for information and referrals, receiving calls from parents seeking child care, parenting support or knowledge about the local child care industry as they consider moving to the area. Early childhood programs are vital to economic stability, reducing costly unscheduled absences in the workplace and attracting skilled workers to the area.
The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce and Smart Start both share a goal of building an educated work force that will enhance our community and quality of life for all. It has now been established that the early years between birth and kindergarten are critical periods of time for brain and social/emotional development. The foundation that we lay during these years sets the stage for all future learning. A solid investment in early education to support childhood development and working families not only helps a child develop into his/her potential, but also enhances our economic development as a community thus strengthening all sectors of the greater Rowan community.
We urge you to consider the important economic and educational role that Smart Start plays in local communities like Rowan County across North Carolina and encourage you to strive to maintain this valuable program that has wisely invested in our most important resource – our future generation. All children are precious. We do not suggest favorable special funding for the early childhood age group of activities, merely equally fair consideration and funding for all public school aged children across North Carolina.
Robert H. Wright, President
Rowan County Chamber of Commerce