Governor continues “Maryland Forward” policy forums to shape transition into new economy, fulfills promise made to stakeholders last year
ANNAPOLIS, MD (February 15, 2011) – Governor Martin O’Malley convened the latest in his series of “Maryland Forward” policy forums today in Annapolis focused on early childhood education, development, and health. Fulfilling a commitment Governor O’Malley made before the Maryland Family network last fall, the Governor joined leaders and stakeholders in childhood development, health, and early childhood education for an important discussion on our shared progress in these areas and the ongoing need to protect these investments. The Governor facilitated a discussion with attendees on how progress in the area of early childhood education and health impacts our ability to be a winner in the new economy.
“We are all here today because we understand that we are in a fight for our children’s future. It’s a fight to expand opportunity for our children to thrive in the new economy,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “If we’re going to make our children winners in the new economy, we need to make early childhood a priority. The choices we make in regards to early childhood are critically important to our ability to expand opportunity and make our children winners in the new economy”
Approximately 100 stakeholders took part in topic-specific workgroups at today’s forum, which was hosted by the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. Workgroup topics included early childhood programs and services, healthy families, and healthy children. Later, Governor O’Malley facilitated a two-hour discussion on the topics discussed and progress moving forward.
Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the nation, yet 22% of Maryland children still enter school unhealthy and unprepared to succeed. Indicators affecting this readiness to succeed include: health disparities, infant mortality, low birth weight, lead poisoning/exposure, poverty, homelessness, abuse and neglect, mental health concerns and psychosocial issues.
Four years ago, Governor O’Malley created the Administration’s 15 strategic goals to improve the quality of life in Maryland. The goals are broadly categorized into four key areas – skills, security, sustainability, and health – reflecting the challenges and opportunities we face as a state in the 21st Century. Three goals directly address the subject matter discussed at today’s forum:
* Improve Student Achievement and School, College and Career Readiness by 25% in MD by End 2015
* End Childhood Hunger in Maryland by 2015
* Reduce Infant Mortality in Maryland by 10% by 2012
In pursuit of these goals, the O’Malley-Brown Administration successfully fought for the President’s “Race to the Top” $250 million education grant, is in the beginning stages of implementing a longitudinal data system to track student progress, and has adopted the principles of the Complete College America initiative. In addition, all food assistance programs outlined in the strategy to end childhood hunger are providing increased levels of support to needy children in Maryland. Since 2007, 72% more children are enrolled in the Food Supplement Program and 13% more children participate in the daily school breakfast program.
The Administration continues to make progress in most phases of the infant mortality reduction plan, including: 50 women receiving ‘Quick Start’ prenatal services, the hiring of 93 Family Investment Aides trained to assist in benefit eligibility screening, and a total of 1,259 pregnant women receiving accelerated Medicaid eligibility for earlier entry into prenatal care statewide.
Prior to his inauguration for a second term, Governor O’Malley convened a series of five “Maryland Forward” forums designed to gather the input of various stakeholders, including recommendations for legislative in areas including jobs and the economy; skills and education; sustainability; children and health; and public safety and security. These day-long summits brought together stakeholders to generate concrete actions and recommendations that support the Administration’s strategic goals.
Following that series, beginning today, Governor O’Malley will convene smaller groups of local stakeholders throughout the 2011 legislative session focused on specific policy areas that will help Maryland be a winner in the new economy, protect our neighborhoods, and create jobs.