WASHINGTON—At the opening session of the National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting, governors discussed early childhood education and its importance in building a strong foundation for economic success in the next generation of American leaders.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, chair of the NGA Education and Workforce Committee, and co-chair Washington Gov. Jay Inslee led the session.

“Governors believe that early childhood education is the foundation of a successful life and, increasingly, a strong economy,” said Gov. Bentley. “That is why we chose to devote the opening session of our 2017 Winter Meeting to this topic, to raise awareness about this crucial policy area with broad bipartisan support.”

“Research shows that early childhood education programs have significant and lifelong benefits, including higher high school graduation rates,” said Gov. Inslee. “When children have access to these programs, they develop the cognitive, physical and social competencies that serve as a foundation of success in kindergarten and beyond.”

Joining the governors at the session was Jennifer Garner, actor and Save the Children Trustee. “In my home state of West Virginia, generational poverty remains a barrier to children’s academic success,” Garner said. “Early childhood education is absolutely critical to breaking that cycle of poverty, which is why I am honored to be able to address the nation’s governors and advocate on behalf of kids.”

Garner and Save the Children Action Network President Mark Shriver outlined the early steps to school success. Afterward, Huntington Ingalls President and CEO Mike Petters discussed why early education is workforce development before engaging with governors a roundtable discussion.

Directly following the session, governors will meet to adopt their new policy positions, including one that makes early childhood education a priority.

On Saturday afternoon, governors will meet to discuss best practices around thwarting cyber attacks as part of NGA Chair Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s initiative, Meet the Threat: States Confront the Cyber Challenge. At that session, Adam Clayton Powell III of the University of Southern California Annenberg Center will moderate a discussion among governors, Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vinton Cerf and Deloitte & Touche Managing Director Mary Galligan. Governors will also hold two governors-only sessions, including one on health care reform.

For more information on the weekend’s events, including video and a full agenda, visit www.nga2017.org.