Survey finds strong support for state investment in early childhood education

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Idaho voters and parents believe the early years of life are important in a child’s brain development and that the state should be doing more to support preschool opportunities, according to a survey conducted by the public opinion research firm Moore Information for the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.

Among parents of children ages 0 to 5, just over a third (36%) surveyed have children currently attending preschool outside the home and 57% say they are planning to send their children to preschool. Importantly, three in four parents of children age 0 to 5 say they would be “very” (53%) or “somewhat” (23%) likely to utilize a public preschool opportunity for their 3- to 5-year-old child if it were offered in their community.

Only 22% of voters surveyed rate the quality of preschool opportunities in Idaho for children ages 3 to 5 years old as “excellent” or “above average,” while 32% say these opportunities are only “average” and 24% say they are “below average” or “poor.” Just a third of Idaho voters and parents of young children believe that “most” preschool programs are affordable for a majority of Idaho families (31% among voters, 33% among parents).

Roughly 80% of voters and parents agree there are three key benefits that result from early childhood education:

  • Access to quality, affordable preschool options for Idaho families enhances their children’s educational performance.
  • Supporting quality, affordable preschool options for Idaho families is important to building the economy through a qualified and educated workforce.
  • State funding for preschool programs results in direct returns for our state and communities – the more we invest in preschool-age children, the more they give back later in life.

Given this, it’s not surprising that nearly seven in ten voters and parents surveyed (69% of each group) believe the state of Idaho should be doing more to ensure that children begin kindergarten with the knowledge and skills they need to do their best in school. Seventy-six percent of voters and 80% of parents support state investments in preschool. Further, that support is deep, in that a majority of parents and voters feel “strongly” in their support (53% of voters, 58% of parents). 

“It’s pretty clear from the research that early childhood education is important to Idaho voters and parents,” said Erik Iverson, President of Moore Information. “Idahoans believe that a quality preschool education is not only good for kids but also for the future of the state. And they want to see more done to make sure it’s accessible and affordable for Idaho families.”

Idaho is one of six states that does not invest in preschool options for families with children 3 to 5 years old. Idaho AEYC, Idaho Business for Education, Idaho Voices for Children, Head Start and other partners have joined in an effort to increase access to high-quality pre-K for all Idahoans.

"Experts know that the early years of a child's life are the most critical time for the developing brain,” said Idaho AEYC Executive Director Beth Oppenheimer. “Access to high-quality, affordable preschool options mean that our children are entering kindergarten more prepared to learn and excel. We wanted to find out what Idahoans’ feelings were on pre-K, and the results were astoundingly positive.”

Moore Information conducted a total of 509 interviews for the survey – 406 among a representative sample of registered voters statewide in Idaho, plus an oversample of 103 parents of children age 5 or younger. The live interviews were conducted April 27 to May 2, 2017, using both cell phone and landlines. The potential sampling error for the N=406 voter sample is +/-5% at the 95% confidence level and +/- 10% for the N=103 parent sample.