Former governor joins fight to preserve Smart Start

RALEIGH Former Governor Jim Hunt and dozens of business leaders went to lawmakers Wednesday morning to ask the new Republican majority not to cut or eliminate funding for the program that provides a variety of services for children less than 6-years-old and their families.

The Smart Start program is funded with state and private money and works to ensure all children have the skills they need to be successful in school.

A majority of the funding is used to improve the quality of child care and make child care more affordable and accessible for working families. But, like so many other programs in the state, it is threatened by the economy.

GOP budget writers are looking at whether to reduce the state money Smart Start receives to consolidate it with the More at Four preschool subsidy program or to eliminate both.

Over the last decade, state funding for Smart Start has been cut by $49 million -- $24 million in the last 4 years -- while at the same time, more and more families are also experiencing job losses and economic hardships.

Former Gov. Hunt actually helped to launch Smart Start in 1993 and says he feels strongly that it's a source of pride for North Carolina and that research shows it improves student performance.

Gov. Bev Perdue also has vowed to fight to protect funding for Smart Start.

However, the chief budget writer in the House says nothings been decided.

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