Save the Children, one of the oldest child-welfare organizations in the country, created a political action arm last year specifically to make early-childhood education a top issue among all candidates for the 2016 presidential campaign.
According to The Washington Post, the organization has been turning up the heat on that campaign in early primary and caucus states like new Hampshire and Iowa:
[The Save the Children Action Network] is currently running broadcast television ads in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, and it sponsored a recent candidates forum in New Hampshire. Travelers moving through the Des Moines airport are faced with a SCAN billboard encouraging Democrats, Republicans, and independents to "Tell our next president to make early-childhood education a priority!"
Led by Mark Shriver, a former Maryland lawmaker and nephew of John F. Kennedy, the network expects to spend $16 million by the end of 2016, according to the Post.
The organization’s website is chock full of facts and figures about early-childhood education, like “by age 5, a child’s brain is already 90 percent developed, yet 2 out of 5 American children are not enrolled in preschool,” and “the U.S. ranks 28th out of 38 developed countries on early-education enrollment among 4-year-olds.”
The idea is to encourage voters to use these facts and figures to insist their local and national lawmakers take on early education. The site is set up so that visitors can click on a “take action” button and find a form letter ready to send. There’s even a way to put in your zip code and generate a letter that will directly go to your representatives in Washington.
President Barack Obama has made early education—specifically universal preschool for 4-year-olds—a signature issue during his second term, but the Washington-based Republicans have been slow to support the idea of a new federal investment. Expansion in federal early-education funding in recent years has primarily benefited Head Start, and some of that was to counteract sequester-based cuts to that program. Hillary Clinton has long championed early education and has made it one of her central issues in the last two years. So far, none of the Republican presidential hopefuls have had much to say on the subject.
The Save the Children Action Network leaders hope to make the issue one that’s impossible for any candidate to ignore by getting voters to move it to the top of their lists.
“We’re trying to look at this from purely a political perspective,” Shriver told the Post. “How do we make early-childhood education a priority and a necessity for the voters who are going to elect the next president of the United States?”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.