Created to focus attention on the needs of children and families in Virginia during the 2013 election season, “Strong Kids, Strong Virginia” will educate candidates, office holders, the media, and the public about issues such as child poverty, early education and care, health, and safety by distributing information, coordinating events, holding public and candidate forums, and training groups in civic engagement.
And children’s advocacy groups aren’t the only ones making the case for kids. Virginians polled by Mason Dixon (625 likely voters evenly split Republicans and Democrats) on their feelings about kids issues and what the state should do about them believe
- the next Governor, along with the legislature, needs to give a higher priority to the health, education and well-being of Virginia’s children and spend less time on other issues, (64%)
- that government investments in the education, health, and safety of children are necessary to ensure Virginia’s long-term economic growth (79%), and
- government has the moral responsibility to provide financial support for the poor, the sick, and children (65%).
Large majorities of voters think it is important for the next Governor to provide leadership and make the following issues a priority next year,
- 87% of respondents believe it is important to reduce child hunger
- 85% want to reduce k-12 class size and improve school buildings and other infrastructure
- 79% support ensuring every child has access to quality health
- 78% support expanding after school programs
- 76% believe in helping working parents by improving the quality and accessibility of childcare
- 71% believe it is important to expand pre-school in Virginia so that parents who want their children to attend a high-quality program can do so
Speaking about the importance of early learning and on behalf of the Virginia Association for Early Childhood Education, President Toni Cacace-Beshears said, “While candidates have made promises in the past concerning the availability of pre-school education for Virginia families, the fact remains that less than 16,000 four-year-olds are enrolled in a state-enrolled pre-school program. At the same time, the state provides no support for three-year-olds, the age educators have determined is the most critical in a child’s developmental learning arc.”
“This is not a conservative, liberal, republican or democratic issue but an issue affecting all children in Virginia not only today but in their success in high school and beyond,” added Pat Victorson, VAECE Vice President for Public Policy.
Commissioned by Every Child Matters, the poll also revealed that a large majority of voters (60%) are not familiar with where Terry McAuliffe stands on children’s issues such as childcare, health care, child abuse, and funding for after school and pre-school education programs. And despite the fact that Ken Cuccinelli holds statewide office, a significant share of voters (43%) are not familiar with where he stands on children’s issues either.
According to Every Child Matters President Michael Petit, “The November 5, elections will have a great bearing on the health, safety and education of Virginia’s children, especially the 285,000 in poverty, the 148,000 uninsured, the 65,000 reported abused, and the thousands of others in unsafe child care, or without the opportunity for pre-school learning.”