At a packed May 26 press conference, Smart Start promoters joined with members of the Democratic minority in the NC House in attacking the Senate and House proposals to reorganize the early childhood education program. House Minority Leader Joe Hackney said the conference was called in order to address what he said was “the tremendous damage done in the House and Senate budgets to Smart Start.”
While defending the status quo in Smart Start, Dr. Olson Huff, chairman of the board of the NC Partnership for Children, which oversees the county level partnerships, demonstrated his displeasure with the House and Senate leadership. Just in case he wasn’t clear enough about his partisan leanings, Huff repeatedly referred to House Minority Leader Joe Hackney as “Speaker”, saying that he used the title “very appropriately”. Hackney was Speaker of the NC House from 2007-2011 before the Republicans gained control of the legislature in the 2010 elections.
While multiple speakers at the press conference claimed that Smart Start is a non-partisan issue, the top leadership of the NC Partnership for Children is comprised of prominent Democrats.
Records show that Huff has donated over $6,500 to Democratic candidates and related organizations while the president of the NCPC, Stephanie Fanjul, has donated over $25,000 to Democratic candidates and causes. Both donated exclusively to Democrats and associated groups.
The Civitas Institute has shown the waste, politicization, and potential for reform within Smart Start. The Senate budget would eliminate funding for the organization Dr. Huff chairs, the North Carolina Partnership for Children, and have local level organizations contract with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Child Development.
One would think that Dr. Huff and others attempting to preserve Smart Start in its current structure would strike a more conciliatory tone with the Republican leadership of the General Assembly. Unless they have received ironclad guarantees that Gov. Perdue’s veto pen will protect them, they are further alienating the legislators that will ultimately have to approve their funding.