Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children
Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

A new poll has found widespread, bipartisan support for expanding pre-K in the commonwealth.

“Massachusetts voters are strongly supportive of spending measures designed to expand access to high-quality pre-K,” according to a memo describing the results of the poll.

“Not only do voters support spending to improve access to pre-K, but they believe the state should invest significant resources in the effort. Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans support spending at least $250 million, as do majorities of every demographic group.”

Voters also “believe expanding access is essential to giving kids from lower-income families a fair chance of keeping up in school.”

The poll is based on a March telephone survey of 605 Massachusetts voters, and designed to be representative of the population of registered voters in the state. The survey was conducted by Anderson Robbins Research, and commissioned by Stand for Children on behalf of the Pre-K for MA Coalition. The coalition — which is led by Strategies for Children and by Stand for Children — “is a coalition of education, business, and civic leaders who know that early education and care can help close the state’s achievement gap and create more opportunities for disadvantaged children.” 

Among the new poll’s results:

• 66 percent of those polled support expanding pre-K programs

• 67 percent said the state should invest $250 million a year in this expansion, and,

• 50 percent are more likely to vote for a legislator who had raised taxes to expand pre-K

The memo notes: “Even with the state facing a budget deficit, voters believe the state should prioritize adequately funding public education over holding a hard line on taxes and spending. Underscoring the importance of this belief, voters are more likely to vote for state legislators who support expanding pre-K — even those that would raise taxes to do so.”

A State House News article (posted on television station WWLP’s website) says:

“Early education advocates estimate that about 30 percent of the state’s 225,000 pre-school age residents are not enrolled in early education programs. The latest legislative push in early education has been to target expanded access to 3 and 4-year-olds who live in communities with underperforming school districts.

“Like environmental programs, early education has traditionally polled well over the years, but that support from voters has not always translated into significant increases in government spending.”

The article adds: “Baker and the Massachusetts House have each signed off on budget proposals that aim to hold the overall increase in state spending next year to less than 3 percent. Even at the higher rates of growth in state spending of recent years, early education has taken a backseat to investments in K-12 education as well as large increases in state spending for health insurance, pensions, and debt service.”

Chris Martes, President and CEO of Strategies for Children, says the poll helps clarify what the state’s agenda should be.

“This poll shows that expanding pre-K is a core issue for an impressive majority of voters who want children to have a strong start. High-quality pre-K isn’t a luxury. It’s a crucial early step toward lifelong success.”

To learn more about Pre-K for MA, check out the coalition’s website.