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I am tired of political candidates who want to win the “Latino vote” without actually investing any time or energy into addressing the concerns of the Latino community.  As a mixed race woman, I’m concerned about any candidate who sees the needs of California and the needs of California’s Latino children and families as two separate issues.

That’s why I’m excited about the results of a recent statewide poll showing that nearly 7 in 10 Latino voters say they are more likely to support candidates who want to increase funding to make high-quality preschool and early learning more accessible and affordable.  I hope this poll will help candidates see early learning as an opportunity to strengthen their campaigns by connecting with the Latino community in a meaningful way.

We know that the best way to prepare for the future is to invest in our kids.  Here in California, Latino children account for more than half of all children under age 5.  By 2025, Latinos will make up almost half of the new labor force in California, which means that our state’s future depends on ensuring young Latino children have the opportunity to experience an early education that builds the foundation they need to excel in school, placing them on the pathway to success in college and careers.

This recent bipartisan survey, conducted in July by Peter D. Hart Research Associates and The Tarrance Group, found that 85 percent of Latino voters in California think children who attend preschool have an advantage over children who do not attend.  These Latino voters value some of the most significant benefits of early learning, and they recognize it as an opportunity to build social skills and develop language during a time when children’s brains are like sponges.

However, Latino voters are aware of the challenges surrounding early learning:  Two-thirds of Latino voters think the state is doing too little to ensure all children have access to affordable high-quality preschool.  It’s not surprising that Latinos feel this way in a state where only 14% of Latino children are enrolled in high-quality preschools that prepare them for success in school. Still, the voters polled identified the main reasons why Latino children are not in preschool: lack of affordable programs, part-day programs that do not fit the schedules of working parents and parents lacking information about programs available.

Access to high quality early learning is a priority for Latino voters.  Ninety-one percent of Latino voters across all demographics and political affiliations agree that despite California’s economic and budgetary challenges, the state should continue to support access to high-quality preschool, and more than three-quarters of Latino voters think candidates who want to increase funding for preschool and early learning will lead California to a better future.

Considering that 1 in 5 registered voters in California is Latino, California’s political candidates know that Latino votes will be key in November’s election.  Now they know that early learning is a big priority for Latino voters across the state.  Hopefully, candidates will connect the dots and make early learning a top campaign issue in the coming election.

Ana Rasquiza works for Preschool California, a nonprofit advocacy organization working with increase access to high-quality preschool for all of California’s children, starting with those who need it most.

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