Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Early Childhood Development Center to Open in Tulsa

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Early Childhood Development Center to Open in Tulsa

Article excerpt

George Kaiser wants to triple the number of Educare early childhood development facilities in Oklahoma by 2008.

Construction is nearing completion on the first Educare facility in Tulsa, which is scheduled to open in August. Kaiser, who originally conceived of the project, said he's looking toward building a second Tulsa site in the next two years.

Bob Ross, president and CEO of Inasmuch Foundation in Oklahoma City, said his organization is in the planning stages of building an Educare site in Oklahoma City.

Kaiser, owner of Kaiser-Francis Oil and chairman of the board of BOk Financial, detailed the project at the Tulsa Metro Chamber's Education Forum in March. He said the primary goal of Educare is to invest in the education of those living in poverty, during a time in their lives when the greatest change in cognitive development and school readiness can be generated - from birth to age 3.

Educare's mission is to help break the cycle of poverty through a flagship, very early childhood education program, and through the transfer of best practices to other Tulsa programs, Kaiser said.

Kaiser said too many programs aimed at eradicating poverty only focus on the symptoms of poverty - like poor nutrition, health care and housing - instead of focusing on the causes of those symptoms. He focused on the idea of nature versus nurture, asking the question, Is it really genes that cause rich parents to have rich kids?

Kaiser explained, both scientifically and philosophically, how he came to believe the answer is no.

He said he used to believe that people ended up where they did based largely on dumb luck - that some won the ovarian lottery and some didn't. But he said he eventually came around to the idea that anyone, regardless of their socioeconomic background, could have improved cognitive function throughout life if they received the proper stimulation very early in their development.

Sensory stimulation and warm human contact at the earliest point in life are the most important things we can do to provide equal opportunity in our society, Kaiser said.

He said he believes higher-income families are better equipped to provide those things for their children, and he wanted to provide an avenue for poor families to give their children the same opportunity for positive development. …

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