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$10 Million for Parenting Programs Set

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In what its sponsors say may be the largest corporate commitment of its kind, US West has announced it will invest $10 million over the next three years in early-childhood development and parenting programs.

Part of a $20-million education initiative launched by the corporation two years ago, the project will support early-childhood programs in 14 Western states.

Jack McAllister, US West's chief executive officer, announced the effort last week at a forum hosted by the Conference Board.

The program, he noted, will tap the philosophy of Missouri's "Parents as Teachers" program, which offers training and resources to help new parents stimulate their children's learning and language development.

"We want to help these first teachers give their children the best possible start in life," Mr. McAllister said. "In education, as in business, trying to fix things is more expensive than getting them right in the first place."

Company officials said a study of the comprehensive pilot program upon which the Missouri program was based showed children in the project were "significantly advanced" over their peers and that parents reported feeling less stress.

The three grants awarded so far by US West include $150,000 to the Coalition for Children in Albuquerque for an action plan for New Mexico children and families; $100,000 to the Oregon Family Resource Coalition for seminars on new ways to work with parents; and $225,420 to the Hispanic Policy Development Project for handbooks for early-childhood directors and policymakers.

The project's advisory board includes Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund; Irving Harris, chairman of the executive committee of the Pittway Corp. and founder of Chicago's "Beethoven Project;" Mildred Winter, executive director of Missouri's PAT program; Bea Romer, First Lady of Colorado; and Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a professor of clinical pediatrics at Harvard University Medical School.

Marilyn M. Smith, executive director of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, has noted that a growing number of businesses are launching such efforts as they recognize the relationship between a strong educational foundation in the early years and the quality of the future workforce. She also cited a "trend of companies turning to their employees as parents and asking about their concerns and needs."

International Business Machines Corporation, for example, said last fall that it would spend $22 million over five years to increase the availability and improve the quality of child care in communities where its workers live and work.

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