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December 06, 2000 1 min read
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Promoting Preschool

Fresh from her re-election victory last month, New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen went on the stump again last week.

This time, the Democratic governor was visiting media outlets in the Washington area to promote the importance of education during a child’s first few years of life.

As the current chairwoman of the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, Gov. Shaheen has launched a two-year initiative aimed at helping states improve learning opportunities for young children. Last Thursday in New Haven, Conn., the ECS kicked off the first of a series of regional meetings on the subject for governors, state agency officials, early-childhood educators, and leaders of business and philanthropic groups.

“If we’re ever going to get the results we want in K-12 education, we’ve got to recognize the importance of the early years and the fact that we have a nonsystem of early learning,” the governor told Education Week during one stop on her new campaign.

A 1998 nationwide survey of teachers suggested that barely half of kindergartners make the transition to formal schooling without significant problems. And, among states, only Georgia and New York offer some form of universal prekindergarten programs.

But, judging by the response to last week’s meeting in New Haven, interest in the issue may be on the upswing, Ms. Shaheen said. Of the 11 Northeastern states invited to send representatives, eight did so. Other meetings are planned for the Midwest and the Southeast before the governor’s term as chairwoman ends in June.

“When people stop and think about this issue, they realize it’s important,” she said.

—Debra Viadero

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A version of this article appeared in the December 06, 2000 edition of Education Week

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