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First Five Years Fund Taps California Advocate for Top Post


Facing challenging economic times that are forcing states to curtail expansion or reduce funding for early learning, Kris Perry knows she has her work cut out for her as she takes over as executive director of the First Five Years Fund, one of the country's leading early childhood advocacy organizations.

But the former head of First 5 California said Thursday that she's ready to take on those challenges and promote to both the country's leaders and voters the importance of quality child development and education from birth through grade 12.

"It's a basic human right for children not just to get an education, but to get a great education," Perry said.

The First Five Years Fund announced Perry's appointment this week to oversee policy and communication efforts for the nonprofit organization, which promotes federal policy and investments in quality early-childhood education for disadvantaged children from birth to age 5. FFYF is a collaboration between the Ounce of Prevention Fund and funding partners that include education foundations such as the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, George Kaiser Family Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Perry says she hopes to help reshape the national conversation by examining the usefulness of current federal policies and to speak directly with voters about prioritizing support for early learning, noting that research has shown that near-sighted funding decisions have dramatic long-term impacts when it comes to child development.

To that end, she'll push for efforts to quantify the impact and economic benefits of providing quality early-learning and investing in "building the front end of the system," which can result in a reduction of costs at "the back end of the system."

"The importance of human development, the way that humans develop, is of interest to everyone," she said.

FFYF officials touted Perry's accomplishments at First 5 California, a state agency that promotes a system of education, health, and child care for kids under age 5. During her seven-year tenure, "Perry effectively helped shape one of the nation's largest and most complex early-childhood systems, bringing stakeholders together with a shared vision for ensuring that all children grow up healthy and ready to succeed in school and in life," officials said.

Added Diana Mendley Rauner, Ounce of Prevention Fund president and a member of FFYF's executive policy council: Perry's "bold leadership of the First Five Years Fund will surely create a lasting impact and brighter futures for young children and families nationwide."

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