Maryland re-elected a Republican who raised subsidies for child care, while Maine’s first female governor-elect pledged universal preschool. Around the country, voters used Election Day in 2018 to favor a number of governors who ran on platforms of expanding programs for child care and early education.
This news shouldn’t come as a surprise. A recent national survey of 1,657 registered voters conducted by the Center for American Progress, where we work, found that majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents all support additional funding for early childhood initiatives.
Here are some examples:
California: Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom ran on an education platform that emphasized early education, beginning with improving prenatal care. The Democrat also envisions several other early childhood policies, including universal preschool for all 4-year-olds, expanded access to affordable child care and increased funding for nurse home visits for new parents.
Colorado: Pledging to “establish universal full-day kindergarten and preschool in every community across Colorado within two years,” five-term Democratic congressman Jared Polis won the state’s gubernatorial race.
Connecticut: Citing the fact that early childhood investments yield strong returns, newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont pledged in his campaign to fully fund the state’s child care assistance program, Care 4 Kids. In addition, Lamont stated that he would expand nurse-family partnerships, which support new parents.
Georgia: Child care and early education played heavily in this race, and the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students hosted a Gubernatorial Summit on Early Education in which both candidates participated.
Illinois: Early education was an important issue in Illinois, as both candidates highlighted their track records on early learning. Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker, however, made early childhood education one of the central planks of his campaign. He advocated for Illinois to move toward universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, expand child care assistance eligibility, increase access to “birth-to-three” services such as home visiting programs and invest in the early childhood workforce.
Kansas: As a state senator, Democrat Laura Kelly advanced the creation of and funding for Kansas’ Early Childhood Block Grants, which support early childhood programs across the state. She centered her campaign on improving education — from early learning through college — in a state that has recently faced severely underfunded schools.
Maine: Elected the state’s first female governor, Democrat Janet Mills pledged universal preschool for all 4-year-olds. She also told the Maine Association for the Education of Young Children that she will convene a children’s cabinet to prioritize young children and expand home visits and Head Start.
Maryland: Re-elected as governor, Republican Larry Hogan ran on his record of improving child care. While Hogan has been less supportive of work-family policies like sick leave, he signed bills earlier this year that used new federal resources in the Child Care and Development Block Grant to double the income-eligibility threshold for child care subsidies and improve payment rates to child care providers, opening up more choices for parents.
Michigan: Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, ran on an education platform that prioritizes “the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.” She proposed phasing in free, voluntary, full-day universal preschool for all 4-year-olds, expanding eligibility for child care subsidies and raising child care provider reimbursement rates.
Minnesota: Democratic Gov.-elect Tim Walz ran on a plan to accelerate Minnesota’s investment in early childhood education. He promised to provide optional free preschool for all 4-year-olds, expand the Minnesota Child and Dependent Care Credit, fully fund the state Child Care Assistance Program, create a Child Care Innovation Center to encourage the creation of new child care providers and support progressive paid parental leave policies.
New Mexico: In New Mexico, early childhood education was a hallmark of Democratic Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham’s campaign. She promised a $285 million investment in high-quality, full-day universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-old children. Lujan Grisham also pledged to improve access to child care assistance by allowing parents to earn more while still receiving much-needed help with paying their child care bills.
Ohio: In a closely contested race, both Ohio candidates elevated early childhood issues. Ultimately, voters chose Republican Mike DeWine. During his campaign, DeWine promised to improve Ohio’s early childhood system by expanding eligibility for child care subsidies, improving child care program quality and tripling the number of families served through home visits.
Oregon: Like Newsom in California, Democrat Kate Brown ran on a cradle-to-career education platform — one that built on her previous record as governor. She has pledged to expand high-quality preschool and reduce class sizes in her next term.
Rhode Island: Victorious incumbent Gina Raimondo, a Democrat, was governor when the state met all 10 new preschool program quality benchmarks set by the National Institute for Early Education Research. As a candidate, Raimondo promised to implement high-quality universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds.
Wisconsin: As the Democratic candidate for Wisconsin, Gov.-elect Tony Evers pledged to make child care more affordable for Wisconsin families. He also promised to increase funding for full-day kindergarten for 4-year-olds.
Gubernatorial candidates’ emphasis on child care and early education in this election cycle reflects the importance of these issues to voters. The majority of young children have all available parents in the workforce, meaning that affordable, high-quality child care and early education are necessities for most families. Without affordable, high-quality child care, parents may have to sacrifice their families’ financial security.
Women of color and younger women are especially supportive of policies that expand child care and early education. As these demographic groups begin to comprise a larger share of America’s elected officials and voting population, child care and early education are likely to gain even more support. The 2018 midterm elections brought a wave of diverse candidates to Congress, including more than 100 women who won Congressional seats.
Over the coming weeks and months, these governors-elect will be called upon to make good on campaign promises and expand access to high-quality early childhood programs for children in their states. It is clear that early childhood policies appeal to voters. Now, it is time for elected leaders to follow through on their promises and lead on this issue.
This story about pre-K, a version of which appeared on the website of the Center for American Progress on Nov. 7, was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.
Katie Hamm is vice president of early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress.
Cristina Novoa is a policy analyst for early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress.
Steven Jessen-Howard is a research assistant for early childhood policy at the Center for American Progress.