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Kids Get a Voice at the State Capitol Today

March 27, 2008

St. Paul, MN - More than 1,000 people are expected to gather today at the State Capitol in a show of support for kids and early childhood education. Todd Otis, president of Ready-4-K, says the "Voices for Children" rally is intended to raise awareness of the need to help kids enter school ready to learn.

"Even in the face of economic challenges, we have to prioritize early investment in our youngest kids. And it's the single most significant return on investment we can gain."

Otis says there are concerns over potential efforts to cut funding for early childhood programs to help balance the budget. That, he says, would be like robbing the future.

Otis says early investment pays big dividends down the road.

"The most important thing we can do, if we truly value the state's future, the education of its citizens and its economy, is to make an investment in time, love and attention to quality early learning experiences for little kids. We know in our hearts that it's the right thing to do. And, we're just saying to legislators and the governor, provide the financial support and leadership to say 'Hey, we're going to be the best state in the country for young children.'"

Otis says the early years are critical to development, and kids who have quality care and early learning experiences do better than those who are "plopped down in front of a TV."

Rally organizer Cristina Gillette says the emphasis is on the earliest years because those years are key to intellectual and emotional development.

"Children's brains develop most dramatically from birth to five years of age. If we provide them with a quality education, then we're building a really strong foundation for them. This has a long-term impact, from being successful in kindergarten and having better reading scores, to higher graduation rates. As adults this translates into lower crime rates and better employment for the state of Minnesota."

Gillette says recent cuts in child care and early education dollars have slowed efforts to give Minnesota kids a jump-start in school.

More information is available online at www.voicesforchildrenmn.org.

Jim Wishner/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - MN