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On May 24, Western North Carolina-based pediatrician, child advocate and The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. Board Chairman Dr. Olson Huff issued a statement in response to proposed changes and cuts to the state’s Smart Start early education program. The North Carolina Partnership for Children is a nonprofit that runs North Carolina’s Smart Start program:

I fear for the well-being of the children of our state. In one fell swoop, the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee announced a plan to destroy years of early childhood progress that has raised third grade outcomes and given thousands of children an opportunity to succeed.

In an elaborate shell game that claims savings without really doing so, the committee effectively killed the state’s nationally recognized early childhood system, Smart Start.

Abolishing Smart Start is the wrong direction to go on education. You can’t get older children to perform in school by taking resources from younger children — at the very time that their brains are being hard-wired to learn.

Earlier this year a Duke University study showed that all North Carolina third-graders have higher standardized reading and math scores and lower special education placement rates in counties that received more funding for Smart Start when those children were younger. What’s more, they found that Smart Start raises the academic achievement of all children in a community, whether they were in child care or not.

The Senate’s proposal to rob the state of this vital program is poor education policy and poor economic policy. This is hardly a growth strategy for our state. The state’s youngest children are taking the hardest hit.

Editor’s note: Read more in our Special Report about proposed cuts to early education and its impact in Western North Carolina.

Kathleen O'Nan

Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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