In 2011, West Virginia KIDS COUNT created a new organizational vision: to make West Virginia a great place to be a kid. Today, during a luncheon in the Grand Lobby of the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, KIDS COUNT reinforced its new vision by honoring State Board of Education Member and former Senate Education Chair Lloyd G. Jackson with its first-ever "Making West Virginia a Great Place to be a Kid" award. The KIDS COUNT awards event also featured a keynote address by West Virginia First Lady Joanne Tomblin, who spoke about the importance of the early years in preparing children for success in primary, secondary and post-secondary education.
During her keynote speech to a crowd of about 280 business leaders, childcare providers, child advocates and policymakers, Mrs. Tomblin said, "We all have an important role to play in making our state a great place for kids. That's why I am honored to recognize the KIDS COUNT Business on Board with Childcare! award winners for their commitment to their employees' childcare needs. As a community college president, I know there is a strong link between high-quality early education and future economic opportunities for our young people and our state."
“What an incredible honor it was to have West Virginia's First Lady share her experiences and insights from her many years of service in the education field at our annual awards luncheon," said KIDS COUNT Executive Director Margie Hale. "We couldn't agree more that top quality education at all levels is the key to West Virginia's future well-being."
Hale added that KIDS COUNT has created the new "Making West Virginia a Great Place to be a Kid" award to honor West Virginians who are taking the lead in creating the public and private structures that support the needs of children. "Lloyd Jackson is a successful business and community leader who has dedicated his life to championing what's best for West Virginia, especially what's best for our children," said Hale. "Not only is he the author of the legislation that created West Virginia's nationally recognized pre-kindergarten program but, for five years, he also served on the KIDS COUNT board, where he was instrumental in raising money for our mission and guiding our successful efforts to advocate for a childcare quality rating and improvement system. He is one of West Virginia's most visionary leaders, especially when it comes to building a strong foundation for our kids. There is no one more deserving of our first 'Making West Virginia a Great Place to be a Kid' award than Lloyd Jackson."
After accepting the KIDS COUNT award, Jackson talked about the historic significance of West Virginia's nationally-acclaimed pre-K program and the need to invest more in children from birth to three.
"Working together, our school system, DHHR, Head Start and private providers have crafted a pre-K system that is a model for the rest of the nation. I am proud to have been associated with this effort," Jackson said. "But this is no place to stop. Our next goal must be to provide access to high-quality childcare for the families of our youngest citizens. The full implementation of a childcare quality rating and improvement system not only will provide parents the information they need to assess the programs or facilities to which they entrust their children, but will provide a methodology and funding to help all providers reach the quality of care our children need and deserve. Without the constant and persistent advocacy efforts of KIDS COUNT, we would not be where we are today. I am honored to receive this award from a group that means so much to West Virginia's children."
In 1986, Jackson was elected to the West Virginia Senate from the Seventh Senatorial District, representing Boone, Lincoln, Logan and Wayne Counties. He sat out the 1990 election but again was elected in 1994 to the State Senate. From 1995 until his departure in 2003, Mr. Jackson served as chair of the Senate Education Committee, chair of the Finance Subcommittee on Education Funding and co-chair of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability. He was the lead sponsor of the Promise Scholarship legislation, and he devised the comprehensive early childhood legislation, which has since made West Virginia a national leader in Pre-Kindergarten programs. He was recently appointed by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to serve on the West Virginia Board of Education.
Bowles Rice and the other 2011 Business on Board with Childcare! winners were recognized during a pre-event VIP reception with the First Lady and Lloyd Jackson. The award signifies the organizations’ adherence to key national and local criteria for a childcare-friendly workplace.
For more information, go to www.wvkidscountfund.org.