THE EVIDENCE keeps mounting: Early learning skills are absolutely critical for giving youngsters what they need to succeed in school -- and later in life.
This fact should not be lost on Gov. Parris N. Glendening as he sets his budget priorities. The governor has a rare chance to seize this moment to thrust Maryland into the vanguard of states championing learning skills for very young children.
By the time a child enters first grade, 90 percent of brain development has occurred. That's why it is crucial to reach these kids earlier, so they start school equipped to learn.
A group of legislators, state officials, educators, health professionals and child-care providers wants the governor to take the lead. They've put before him proposals for early childhood education, including all-day kindergarten and a doubling of funds for quality preschool education centers.
They also want a statewide credentialing system for those staffing child care centers, in which workers would be eligible for scholarships and bonuses to increase their teaching skills.
We are hopeful that Mr. Glendening, an educator himself, will make early childhood learning a priority for 2001. In particular, a multiyear phase-in of all-day kindergarten would be widely applauded. One county that already has such a program in place, Caroline County, made stunning strides in third-grade tests this month, especially among disadvantaged students.
Last session, Mr. Glendening committed money to roll out the first 10 Judy Hoyer Early Childhood Education and Care Centers. That $4 million investment was a good start. Now it's time for a larger commitment that would make Maryland a model for other states to emulate.