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Is there a special responsibility in being the first? Don’t we owe it to our children to show them that it is not necessarily the first one out of the starting gate but, instead the runner who takes the biggest strides that wins the race?

As I observed members of the Women’s Legislative Caucus at their first meeting of the session today, I found myself contemplating the special roles and burdens of being the first at something while also celebrating the possibilities inherent in breaking new ground. It was exciting to be in the room as a bi-partisan group of female senators and representatives congratulated Representative Jan Jones on her election as Speaker Pro Tem! And, it was gratifying to hear Representative Jones speak not only about her own plans but to also listen to her acknowledge that she hopes to set a pace for other women to follow.

In 1993, Georgia set the pace for pre-K programs around the country by establishing our universal lottery funded pre-K program, and we still lead the nation in total enrollment of four-year olds. Yet, we have more families who wish to enroll their children in Pre-K than we have slots available. And, other states have taking deeper strides to help the most at-risk young children by extending programs to three-year olds and targeting specific resources for maximum impact on state outcomes.

Wouldn’t it be exciting to celebrate another first during the new Speaker Pro Tem’s term and add enough Pre-K slots to eliminate the waiting list?

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The Georgia Chamber of Commerce Annual Eggs and Issues breakfast on Tuesday turned out 2700 chamber members and supporters.  I was there.  I’m a Chamber member.  Do all Chamber members agree on every business issue?  No.  But is there power in the Chamber bringing 2700 people together in front of the governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker and many legislators?  Does it say that the business community will turn out when they care about an issue?  Yes!

When was the last time 2700 child advocates assembled in one place?  What would it say to our policymakers if we did? 

 Let’s make this the year that we really show up for kids.  If you can’t make it to the Capitol or to Voices’ Children’s Policy Watch at the Capitol on Feb. 23, or to another legislative event, at least turn out on the phone or by email to contact your legislator.  And how about joining this blog?  Let us know you’re there and you care.

 For starters, tell us the two biggest children’s issues on your mind.  Say it in ten words or less.  Our own legislative agenda will be posted next week.  It supports Voices’ five objectives to improve children’s outcomes by 2015.  But we want to know what’s on your priority list for kids and hope to get your comments.

The Governor will give his last “State of the State” address today at 11 am. Watch it live on http://www.gpb.org.

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