Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students (GEEARS) Launches

/PRNewswire/ -- The Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, a new independent successor group to the United Way's Early Education Commission, will help business, government leaders, providers and parents maximize the economic return on the state's investments in early care and learning.

Guided by a growing body of business and economic research documenting the high-dollar return on investment associated with early learning and care, GEEARS will work to position Georgia as a national leader in ensuring that all children enter kindergarten ready to learn and on a path to read by third grade. Hitting these markers in the next decade will reduce costs associated with remedial education, juvenile justice and public assistance, thereby improving the quality of the state's workforce and business climate.

Philanthropist Stephanie Blank, longtime champion of children and education, serves as the founding chair of the governing board of GEEARS.

"The first five years of a child's life are literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Ms. Blank. "Smart money gravitates to early childhood investments. Children who get off to a good start contribute more to Georgia's economic growth. We also have a moral obligation: There are no do-overs where our children are concerned."

To meet the organizations aggressive goals, GEEARS has appointed early education and children's advocate Mindy Binderman as Executive Director. Mindy previously served as Advocacy Director for Voices for Georgia's Children (Voices), a non-profit organization that attempts to develop positive public policy for Georgia youth. As Advocacy Director, she developed and executed public and government affairs strategies supporting Voices' campaign promoting a long-term commitment to children. Prior to joining Voices, Ms. Binderman gained years of professional and academic experience in public policy through her own consulting firm, various directorships and as a faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, teaching a masters seminar in advocacy. Ms. Binderman was born and raised in Alabama, and holds a law degree from American University.

"I'm excited to be leading GEEARS because I want today's toddlers to become the next generation of Georgia's business entrepreneurs, teachers, nurses, farmers, doctors and professionals," said Binderman. "We cannot keep doing the same things and expecting different results, and Georgia taxpayers cannot afford to see more of our youth fail at school, become teen parents or end up in the criminal justice system," Mindy commented.

Pat Willis, Executive Director, Voices adds, "Mindy will bring immediate energy and action to GEEARS' agenda. While we will miss her as Voices' director of government affairs and advocacy, we look forward to forging a strong partnership with GEEARS as advocates for young children."

The organization's launch comes at a pivotal time, as the current state of early education in Georgia continues to decline.

In fact, Georgia now ranks 48th in nationwide student test scores and currently, only 50 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in Georgia Pre-K Program. Additionally, more than 7,000 children across the state are on the Georgia Pre-K Program waiting list.

GEEARS will reverse this trend by:
-- Increasing quality, accessibility and affordability of early care and
education all Georgia children
-- Establishing higher standards of excellence for childcare that helps
Georgia's children enter kindergarten ready to learn and on a path to
"read to learn" by 3rd grade
-- Providing resources for parents
-- Driving public awareness emphasizing the importance of learning from
birth to age 5

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