Speeches

Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Foundation for Early Learning Annual Luncheon
October 26, 2004


Thank you so much for this special award. While I am very honored by this recognition, the real force in the Locke household for early learning is my wife, Mona. Her work as president of the Foundation for Early Learning board and as co-chair, with Melinda Gates, of the Governorís Commission on Early Learning has been inspirational to me and many others around the state. Thank you, Mona!

As you all know, Mona and I have two young children and are about to have a third (any minute now!). Before I became governor, lifelong learning to me meant education continuing beyond high school and college. Watching our own children learn and grow has expanded my definition of lifelong education. It truly begins at birth.

Science has now proven the first three years of life are critical to a child's learning and development. But thousands of our kids start kindergarten without the basic skills to succeed in school. We must help our children by giving them the early foundation they need by working with parents and caregivers.

It is tremendously gratifying to see the Foundation for Early Learning continuing the great work in this area started by the Governorís Commission on Early Learning. All too often, advisory commissions meet, issue a report, and then disappear. This Commission issued a report with excellent policy recommendations, many of which state government has been able to implement. And now it has turned itself into this living, breathing foundation that supports important work for children and families in our communities all across our state in a way that government canít!

Among the recommendations of the Commission was a call to improve our child care system. It is critically important that safe, affordable child care is available to our families. But child care must also go further than that. We canít just babysit or warehouse kids. True ďchild careĒ must be more meaningful.

We have taken significant steps to make child care more meaningful for our kids. For example, we provide $1 million a year in funding for scholarships for child care providers to obtain advanced education and training and improve their skills. And we have a pilot program in Spokane where we offer higher pay to child care centers who have achieved advanced certifications. Better educated providers results in high quality child care.

There have been other important milestones promoted by the Foundation. Just last week, we announced the development of Early Learning and Development Benchmarks. These benchmarks describe what children should know and be able to do when they enter school. The guidelines will give children a better opportunity to succeed in school by giving parents, child care providers and preschool teachers a better understanding of what our kids should know, and when. This will be a big help to parents as they raise and educate their children, and help parents evaluate child care and pre-school centers.

We need to do more. We can if we establish an education funding source thatís permanent, dedicated and stable.

The education of our youngest children is a tremendously important task. Again, I want to thank the Foundation for its dedication to this critical effort. Through your leadership, we can reach the goal of ensuring that every child in our state receives positive learning experiences during his or her preschool years.

Again, thanks so much for this special recognition of Mona.

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