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Office of Governor Gary Locke
Contact:  Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Gov. Locke launches Commission on Early Learning

SEATTLE - Flanked by red-and-white tricycles and multi-colored hand-painted posters at a Seattle child care facility, Gov. Gary Locke today launched his new Governor's Commission on Early Learning.

In a press conference at the Hutch Kids child care center, Locke introduced the First Lady, Mona Lee Locke, and Melinda French Gates, who will serve as co-chairs.

The Lockes and Mrs. Gates, parents of young daughters, outlined the governor's plans to bring together leaders in health, education, child care, business and government to critically examine the state's role in improving the earliest stages of learning for children from birth to age three.

"Science has now proven the first three years of life are critical to a child's learning and development," Gov. Locke said. "Because these earliest stages set the stage for the rest of that child's life, parents and care-givers need to know how to make the most of those learning opportunities."

The Commission's charge is to ensure that every child in Washington goes to school prepared to succeed. In its work, the 22-member group will identify gaps in programs for children and parents, as well as raise the public's awareness of issues surrounding early learning in children.

Mrs. Locke and Mrs. Gates echoed the need to focus public attention on the learning of youngest children.

"Watching Emily grow into a child has made a deep impression on me," Mrs. Locke said. "Each day presents a new chance to explore her world, and as a parent, I have a responsibility to make each day one to cherish."

"The first three years are a fascinating growth time for children," Mrs. Gates said. "As a new parent with my own two-year-old Jennifer, there has been so much to learn and many wonderful opportunities to shape her development. I look forward to contributing to the state's efforts in continuing and bringing new programs for parents of young children."

The announcement of the Commission was made amidst a room of toddlers at Hutch Kids child care facility. The center is featured this month in Good Housekeeping magazine for its exemplary program for infants and toddlers. Hutch Kids is one of only 5,783 centers in the nation to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The organization certifies centers only after they meet strict standards for safety and health, staff training and program quality.

Scientific research on brain development has emphasized the importance of children's first years of life on their long-term health and well-being.

Each year, 77,000 infants are born in Washington. As those children begin to develop learning styles, the role of the caregiver becomes more important. Today, about 60 percent of children under the age of six (230,000 children) have both or only-parents in the work force.

"As a new parent myself, I'd love to know what I should be doing to help Emily get the best start in life," Gov. Locke said. "And I'm sure there are thousands of other parents who are just as interested in doing what they can to maximize their children's chances to succeed in life."

The Commission expects to hold its first meeting June 26 in Olympia.

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