Caitlin Lennon (January 17, 2019) According to a recent poll from the First Five Years Fund (FFYF), a national, bipartisan advocacy group, American voters are consistent in their support for early learning and care. This holds true regardless of survey respondents’ political affiliation. Conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates, and representing the sixth such poll by FFYF, the findings underscore the rare bipartisan consensus created around investing in early childhood. While the findings were not broken down by state, these national results are encouraging for early childhood supporters and mirror the strong emphasis on children seen in Ohio’s last election cycle and in the new DeWine administration.
66% of voters polled agreed that we need to do more to make sure children are better prepared for kindergarten, up from 60% in the 2017 poll. In the 2016 poll, more than two thirds of voters said children do not start kindergarten with the knowledge and skills they need.
Figure 1: Percentage of American voters that support improved kindergarten preparation
Ohioans agree with this sentiment. In 2016, the First Five Years Fund conducted an Ohio poll indicating that Ohioans’ support for early learning and care is consistent with the national results. According to the results of that Ohio poll, 68% said we should be doing more to ensure children begin kindergarten with the skills and knowledge they need. Statewide, only four in ten Ohio kindergarteners are prepared for school, according to the state’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment. In contrast, 6 in 10 are “emerging” or “approaching” readiness. In Columbus, that statistic is even starker: only 3 in 10 kindergarteners are prepared when they enter kindergarten, according to KRA data.
Overall, 55% of polled voters think that federal funding for early childhood care and education should increase, which remains consistent with the 2017 results. Over three-fourths of those polled support increasing federal investment to help states provide more access to high-quality early childhood programs for low- and moderate-income families.
In the most recent Ohio poll, voters expressed strong support for state funding in early education. 82% said the state should provide funding for high-quality early education programs for low- and middle-income three- and four-year-olds. Governor Mike DeWine recently stated that the upcoming state budget would reflect an emphasis on early childhood education.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, voters perceive a lack of affordable early childhood care regardless of income. Eight in ten survey respondents support tax credits for child care. In 2016, Ohio voters throughout the state said there was a lack of affordable and quality early education programs. According to statistics from Child Care Aware of America, the annual cost of child care for infants in Ohio is approaching $10,000 per child, which is nearly the same cost as public college tuition for one year.
The cost of child care often represents a large percentage of parents’ annual income and the cost only increases for families with more than one child. Child Care Aware reports that married families with two children spend 15.8-19.7% of their income on child care, while single parents with two children will spend an astounding 66-79.1% of their income on child care. As expensive as child care is in Ohio, there are 22 states where annual child care exceeds the cost of college tuition.
Table 1: Annual child care costs in Ohio
|Home-Based Care||Center-Based Care|
|One infant and a 4-year-old:
|One infant and a 4-year-old:
Overall, the latest poll by FFYF largely reaffirms what we already know: early care and education is prohibitively expensive for many families; most people agree—at least in concept—with the idea of the government spending more to finance early childhood; and too few children enter kindergarten prepared to succeed. The majority of Ohioans echo these sentiments and support improvements to kindergarten readiness, increased funding for early childhood and recognize a lack of affordable child care options, regardless of income.