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Preschool Support Critical For Latino Voters

 New America Media, News Report, Vivian Po,

SAN FRANCISCO - California Latinos of every political affiliation are much more likely to vote for candidates this November who support early childhood education, according to a new statewide poll. 

The bipartisan survey of 895 registered Latino voters was conducted by Hart Research Associates and The Tarrance Group on behalf of Univision and Preschool California, a nonprofit organization that advocates for high-quality early education for all California children. 

The results of the poll, which was conducted in English and Spanish, were released Wednesday at a teleconference with ethnic media. 

Nearly seven in 10 Latino voters (69 percent) said they were more likely to support candidates for governor or the state legislature who wanted to increase funding to make preschool and early learning more accessible and affordable. 

Some 61 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for candidates who favored cuts in preschool funding.

One-fifth of registered voters in California are Latino.

Meanwhile, Latinos account for half of all children under age 5. By 2025, they will make up more than half of the state’s labor force.

The new poll shows that as a voting issue, preschool funding “is really going to make a difference,” according to Mark Bunge, a vice president with Hart Research.

“What it means for candidates who want to be successful is they must understand Latino voters’ needs and their priorities,” Bunge asserted. “And the poll tells us that education is a top priority for Latino voters.”

In the poll, 75 percent of Latino voters said that candidates who will work to give children the opportunity to get a great education appeal to them “a great deal”—even more so than candidates who will look out for Latino families or invest in infrastructure.

More than 90 percent of respondents agreed that California needs to continue to support high-quality preschool programs to prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond, even though the state’s economy and budget are in bad shape. 

Ernesto Saldaña, Preschool California’s statewide field director, said he believed the strong reaction was rooted in the Latino community’s dissatisfaction with the state’s failure to provide early education opportunities for their children. 

“Latino children are the least likely to be enrolled in any kind of early learning programs,” Saldaña said. Only about 14 percent of Latino children are currently enrolled in a high-quality preschool that prepares them for elementary school, he said.

Seventy-two percent of Latino voters said they believed that no more than half of families in their communities have access to high-quality preschool, either because programs aren’t affordable or because half-day programs do not fit the needs of working parents. 

Although Latino families have limited access to early education, the poll shows that Latino voters think highly of those programs. Some 85 percent of respondents said children who attend preschool have advantages over those who do not; the reasons they gave include a belief that children are more receptive and eager to learn before the age of 5 and that the preschool environment can help kids develop social, problem-solving and learning skills.

The poll was conducted in July. Hart Research is a Democratic pollster. The Tarrance Group works on behalf of Republican candidates.



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