04/22/2014 04:49 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2014

Staunch Majority of California Voters Support Pre-K

As state legislators and Governor Brown consider their budget priorities, I hope they will take note of the latest poll results showing four out of five voters support increasing preschool availability for four-year-olds in California. A whopping 79 percent of California voters believe it is important to increase preschool access for California kids, according to the recent field poll.

The projected cost of implementing preschool for all is also worth the investment, according to 57 percent of voters. Support was especially strong among Latino voters, with 91 percent saying that expanding access to preschool is important, and 75 percent saying that cost for providing preschool for all four-year-olds would be worth the investment.

These findings reflect what we saw in an earlier poll of Latino voters that found preschool and early learning are winning issues for candidates. This demonstrates that education is a top priority for Latino families -- the fastest growing segment of our population -- as a pathway to opportunity, and that early learning lays the foundation for that.

California voters reflect what we're seeing around the country in terms of momentum and engagement on early learning, including both Republican and Democrat governors. New York recently joined the growing list of states making big investments in early learning with a vote to invest $1.5 billion in early childhood education over the next five years.

These survey results are also a recognition of the science and the economics around the value of investing in the early years, as well as what parents of young children have seen firsthand. We can no longer continue to deny the research because it is rooted in what many parents know is true.

When my son Robby was first born, he did a lot of eating, sleeping and going through a lot of diapers. But I could also see how rapidly his brain was developing and absorbing new information. What I didn't know was that he was forming 700 neural connections every second, and from the moment he was born, his brain was building those crucial networks that determine how he would learn, think and grow for the rest of his life.

Research also tells us that the children who start out behind too often stay behind. When children are just two years old, there's already a six-month gap in language proficiency between lower- and higher-income children. This builds on earlier findings that by age three, children born into low-income families have heard about 30 million fewer words than those in high-income families.

It's not just the neuroscience that says that early preventive intervention is efficient and produces more favorable outcomes than later remediation; it's the economists. An analysis by a Nobel Laureate in economics, James Heckman, found that high-quality early learning and care investments for low-income children return $7 for every dollar invested. The kids who attend those programs are less likely to be involved in crime, be retained a grade or drop out of school, and more likely to graduate from high school, be employed, and earn more. Sadly, our state budget priorities do not reflect this reality.

That's why Early Edge California is proud to support significant new investments in early learning in our state budget, and the Fair Start package of proposals aimed at providing all of our children with the building blocks they need to be successful in school and in life, starting at birth.

Through these proposals, we can provide every four-year-old with high-quality pre-k and serve more of our most vulnerable infants and toddlers with evidence-based, comprehensive services that they need to thrive.

We are hopeful California will stand up and lead. Now is the time for California to give every child a fair start.