Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children
Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Tired of the election’s noise and name-calling?

Then encourage candidates and already-elected officials to talk about early education.

As a U.S. News and World Report article explains, “Education is an issue that serves as a linchpin for many of the other issue concerns of voters, such as job security, economic opportunity, wage stagnation and economic mobility. Helping families and communities provide children with high-quality early education from birth to age five has emerged as a family issue which the vast majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents can agree upon and urge action.”

The article — “Early Education Makes for Good Politics: In an ugly campaign season, investments in early childhood education are good policy with bipartisan appeal” – was co-written by a bipartisan team. Jim Messina is the founder and CEO of the Messina Group, and he was the campaign manager for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. Kevin Madden is a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies, and he was a senior advisor and spokesperson for Governor Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

They write:

“Results from a bipartisan national poll recently released by the First Five Years Fund found that, regardless of party, voters see early childhood education as a necessity for American families. 88 percent of voters agree that access to quality early learning is a need, not a luxury, for all the working families out there doing their best to pay the bills.” The Hechinger Report wrote about that poll last year.

And in this election cycle, it’s the voters who appear to be the thought leaders.

“In fact, voters have shifted their education priorities to the point where candidates are getting left far behind. Voters strongly believe the first five years of life set the foundation for education and later success in life. No wonder 75 percent of voters say we should invest as much or more in early childhood education as we do in higher education. They strongly support partnerships between federal and local lawmakers to invest resources in new early learning programs, or expansions of the most successful.”

“The overwhelming public support behind this issue is becoming impossible for Washington politics to ignore much longer. Despite the slow-moving nature of the current political environment, lawmakers are recognizing the strong popular backing behind early childhood education and seeing it as a mandate to increase early learning access across the country.”

Chiming in last month in an open letter on the Huffington Post, a pre-K teaching assistant, wrote:

“Dear presidential candidates: My name is Milagros Amador. For 20 years I have worked as a teaching assistant in a pre-kindergarten classroom in St. Petersburg, Florida… If you want my support, you must first make a commitment to the children of Florida by sharing your plan to make universal, high-quality early childhood education accessible to all.”

“Some of my kids come into our classroom at the beginning of the year struggling to speak – by the end of the year many of them have made progress communicating with me, their parents and anyone else who will listen. It is so gratifying when my former students — their faces shining and their futures bright — come to visit and give me a big hug to thank me for giving them a strong start.”

Amador continues: “Sadly though, only half of preschool-aged kids in our state are enrolled in public pre-k. That means 207,309 eligible Florida kids don’t get what research has shown helps them thrive – access to early learning… There is no time to waste. For this generation of early learners, and every generation to follow, it is up to us to set them on a path to a better tomorrow.”

NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children) is also weighing in on the need for campaign season action with its Early Ed for President initiative. To raise awareness and funding, this effort asks for “16 monthly, tax-deductible donations of $16” to “help flex the political muscle of the early childhood profession” because, “The nation’s policies have not caught up to the significant body of research and science on the benefits for children, families, and society of high-quality early learning with skilled, knowledgeable teachers.” Click here to learn more. And be sure to use #earlyedin16 on Twitter.

So don’t settle for a political debate full of slams and slights. Encourage current and would-be leaders to talk about how to provide America’s youngest children with an exceptional early education that will prepare them for a lifetime of prosperity.