As the
campaign season heats up, candidates are crisscrossing the state
talking about the need to create jobs and fix our education system.
Results from a new statewide poll of Latino voters, a critical mass of
business support and an abundance of research all point to how we can
both strengthen our economy and take a critical first step in K-12
reform: by providing our children with high-quality preschool.

As candidates increase their efforts to woo Latinos – who account for 1
in 5 registered voters in California – they should consider the results
of a new, bipartisan poll of 895 Latino voters. The statewide poll
found that education is a top priority for Latino voters as a pathway
to opportunity, but that they give California poor marks when it comes
to providing those educational opportunities.

The poll, conducted by The Tarrance Group and Hart Research Associates,
showed that Latino voters see preschool as a critical piece of the
state’s educational mission and believe it provides important benefits
to children. Nearly 7 in 10 Latino voters said they are more likely to
support candidates who back preschool. And about three quarters said
candidates who support preschool and early learning are focused on the
right priorities, and will lead California to a better future.

Business leaders, too, recognize the value of high-quality early
learning. Research by the RAND Corporation and others has bolstered
business support, which has grown substantially for high-quality early
childhood education programs, especially for the children who need it
most. Such studies show far too many children are entering school
unprepared, and that wide "achievement" and "readiness" gaps exist
between lower- and higher-income children."

High-quality early childhood preschool can help close this achievement
gap, research shows. That, in turn, helps improve the performance of
our students and lays the foundation for their success in K-12 and
beyond. Research like this is why a coalition of business leaders
across the state, called the California Preschool Business Advisory
Council, is supporting efforts to produce viable early education policy
in California. Together, the council represents 6,000 companies that
employ more than 2 million workers in California and operate in more
than 35 different sectors of the state’s economy.

As business leaders, the council recognizes that getting our children
started on the right educational path is crucial to developing the
highly trained, well-educated workforce our state will need to maintain
its bright future and compete in the global economy.

The recent Latino voter poll also shows why support for early learning
is widespread – 85 percent of those surveyed said children who attend
preschool have an advantage over those who do not. In further support
for preschool, 91 percent of Latino voters across all demographics and
political affiliations agree that despite California’s economic and
budgetary challenges, the state should continue to support access to
high-quality preschool, with three-quarters of Latinos agreeing

Unfortunately, access to high-quality preschool for Latino children
does not match support for it. Statewide, just 14 percent of Latino
children are enrolled in high-quality programs that prepared them for
success in school. We must do more to improve this statistic because by
2025, Latinos will make up almost half of the new labor force in

Our state’s future economic growth depends on ensuring all of our
children have the opportunity to access early education that places
them on the pathway to success in college and careers.