Originally created 09/21/00

Barnes' wife backs day-care initiative



Georgia's first lady, Marie Barnes, delivered statistics that unnerved several of Augusta's educators Wednesday.

"Of the 4-year-olds that started this fall, only six out of every 10 will graduate from high school, and only three of those will go to college," she said.

Mrs. Barnes, joined by state Sen. Charles Walker, D-Augusta, and local leaders, visited Augusta to discuss an early childhood care initiative that will be presented to the Georgia General Assembly in the 2001 legislative session.

The legislative package will be coordinated by the Georgia Early Learning Initiative, the statewide advocacy team that will write the proposal.

"The parents and care-givers will learn about early education," Mrs. Barnes said.

Initiative Executive Director Bill Garrett said the group, which designs programs that target children up to age 5, will recommend that the state devise a way to screen all children for health care needs. The first five years are when most cognitive development takes place, Mr. Garrett said. The proposed programs will teach parents what to look for in quality day care.

"If we don't do anything else in Georgia, we need to educate our children," Mr. Walker said. "The natural equalizer in our society is education. We need to make sure that children have quality day care, and we need to work with parents to make sure they know the difference."

The 2001 proposal will recommend technical assistance centers that will offer care-givers training and benefits including more pay and incentives, according to Mr. Garrett.

"There is 40 percent turnover (in the care-giver profession) in Georgia annually," he said, adding that most have no health benefits.

Reach Clarissa J. Walker at (706) 828-3851.