During Georgia’s gubernatorial campaign of 1990, part of candidate Zell Miller’s platform was the creation of a state lottery, the proceeds from which would be used to fund new educational initiatives. He specifically supported creating a voluntary preschool program and a college scholarship program for students in Georgia. After Governor Miller was in office for two years, voters in Georgia passed a referendum that established the Georgia Lottery for Education thus creating a dedicated funding stream for specific educational programs.
Georgia’s Pre-K Program began in 1992 as a pilot program serving 750 at-risk four year olds at 20 locations. Because of the success of the Georgia Lottery, in 1995 the Pre-K program was opened to all four year old children regardless of family income. The program has grown every year since its inception.
In 1996, the Georgia General Assembly created the Office of School Readiness to administer Georgia’s Pre-K Program, license child care centers participating in Georgia’s Pre-K Program, administer federal nutrition programs (the Child and Adult Food Care Program and the Summer Food Service Program), and provide early intervention services. The agency also housed the Georgia Head Start State Collaboration Office and developed/implemented the Standards of Care Program to enhance the quality of child care provided to infants and toddlers.
In 2004, Governor Sonny Perdue and the Georgia General Assembly created Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning to further streamline the state’s services to Georgia’s children from birth to age five and their families. The department was formed by merging the Office of School Readiness with units from the Department of Human Resources, the Department of Education, and the Georgia Child Care Council.
At the time, Governor Perdue said he was, “… proud that Georgia has established a department dedicated to the needs of young children. Bright from the Start is instrumental in ensuring that families in our state have access to the best early child care possible.”
Today, Bright from the Start offers a variety of services and resources to Georgia’s youngest citizens and their families. The department works with thousands of child care providers, school systems, and state and national child advocacy organizations to ensure that hundreds of thousands of Georgia’s children receive high quality child care and early learning experiences in safe and healthy environments.