GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The National Smart Start 2017 Convention kicked off in Greensboro this week, bringing hundreds of education specialists together to talk about ways to improve early childhood education.

"The need for it is to learn from each other, to network, to really lift each other up and celebrate the work that everybody across this state and across the country are doing together," explains Cindy Watkins, President of North Carolina Partnership for Children. "It's very often uncompensated work, so it's a great opportunity to learn."

Watkins says the biggest challenge for teachers is compensation and that's something Governor Roy Cooper is hoping to change.  He delivered the keynote address at the conference, talking about the importance of investing in education.

"Science shows that it makes a big difference in whether kids are ready to learn when they go to school," Governor Cooper explains.

In his proposed budget, Governor Cooper says he's put in funding for improvements to education, like eliminating the pre-K waitlis and more money for teacher pay.  But he also says he's hitting a road block with the Republican leadership.

"What the Senate Republican leadership has done is pass a tax plan that would provide for corporate tax breaks and giveaways to the wealthy that will significantly hurt these efforts."

Senate Leader Phil Berger's Office is sticking by what it said after the budget proposal was released in March.

The statement, in part, reads:

"We believe a more prudent approach is investing generously in public education and other priorities while still saving for a rainy day and returning hard-earned tax dollars to our taxpayers.  The Governor's proposal is a step backward from successful approach that has led to a booming North Carolina economy and helped generate close to 500,000 new jobs."

Governor Cooper says he's been encouraging bussiness owners and chambers of commerce to go speak to the General Assembly about the importance in investing in education, rather than corporate tax cuts.

Republican leadership says the tax cuts will boost the economy and help families afford that education.

Funding is one facet being discussed at the Smart Start Conference.  The conference runs May 1-4 at the Koury Convention Center.