Originally created 03/09/99

Program gets first big money



Maintaining its traditional support of education, the Westinghouse Savannah River Co. donated $100,000 Monday to the governor's programs to prepare young children for school.

The donation is the first major corporate contribution to Gov. Jim Hodges' "First Steps" initiative.

South Carolina's continued economic success depends on education, said WSRC President Ambrose Schwallie.

"We refer to this as the pipeline concept," he said in remarks at a Monday press conference. "We need to create a pipeline of skilled workers for our state and for our nation in order to successfully compete in the global market."

First Steps, modeled after a similar program in North Carolina, is aimed at preparing children age 5 and younger to start kindergarten. The program includes subsidies for child care and additional funds for immunizations and other early childhood health programs.

The program is a public-private partnership, dependent both on donations from corporate individuals and state tax funds.

Mr. Hodges had asked for $20 million in the state budget to go toward his program. Last week, House Republicans cut funds from the program to $3 million.

Mr. Hodges thinks the Legislature will give the program funding because in last year's election, South Carolinians told legislators to save the schools, said spokeswoman Nina Brook.

First Steps was one of the cornerstones of Mr. Hodges' election campaign.

Todd Bauer can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.