North Carolina Lt. Governor Walter Dalton has long been a supporter of Smart Start, travelling across the state to learn firsthand how the program benefits families and communities. In his latest newsletter, he puts out a call to action asking Smart Start supporters to call their legislators and protect the award-winning program. Below is a portion of his newsletter.
As the General Assembly considers their proposed state budget, I have been speaking out in support of Smart Start, the state’s award-winning early childhood program using public-private partnerships. I held forums in Greensboro and Durham and met with parents, child care providers, and business leaders to hear how Smart Start is positively impacting these communities and our state.
In 1993, Governor Jim Hunt and the General Assembly had the vision to create Smart Start, which provides education, health services, and family support to children in all 100 counties. In 18 years, the program has helped hundreds of thousands of children and families in North Carolina.
This year, some members of the General Assembly have proposed severely cutting funding for – or even eliminating – Smart Start. The House budget calls for a $37 million reduction in funding for Smart Start (20% of its state funding) and the proposed Senate budget goes even further by cutting the public-private partnership that administers the program. These cuts would jeopardize North Carolina’s continued success in economic development and job recruitment and hurt our children’s future.
One of the reasons Smart Start has been so successful is its establishment as a public-private partnership outside of government bureaucracy. Backed by the state’s top business leaders, it not only harnesses taxpayer funds, but it also leverages private funding.
I understand that we are facing unprecedented budget difficulties. However, it would be very short-sighted for North Carolina to threaten our future economic success and each child’s personal success by inordinate cuts to such a successful and productive program. If properly funded, our state’s investment in early childhood education will yield an extraordinary return that will pay decades’ worth of dividends.