On Feb. 18, Thrive and the Washington State Department of Early Learning kicked off our 10th Anniversary years with a reception in Olympia to thank state legislators for creating us in 2006 and continuing to increase their bipartisan commitment and investment in our state’s youngest children and their families.
The next day, Thrive brought together the state’s 10 Early Learning Regional Coalitions for their annual advocacy day. In the morning, Rep. Ruth Kagi, Rep. Tana Senn and Rep. Tom Dent talked with the coalitions about what’s happening this session to support high-quality early learning. By day’s end, coalition representatives had met one-on-one with about half of the state Legislature, sharing local success stories and voicing their support for continued investments in early learning. Last year, these local advocates were key to helping get the state’s Early Start Act passed and they’re key to our state’s efforts to make sure high-quality early learning takes hold statewide.
Key issues discussed with legislators this year:
- Expand access to state preschool program: There is currently space but no funding to bring about 650 children into the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). These children come from families that face extreme poverty, homelessness, foster care and other challenges, and ECEAP is a proven way to help children in our state living in high-risk situations get ready for kindergarten.
- Prevent waitlist for Working Connections Child Care: Our state now guarantees 12 months of continuous child care to eligible working families. This kind of stability supports a child’s healthy growth and development and helps more families become self-sufficient. By this summer, though, there won’t be enough money to provide child care subsidies to the thousands of hardworking families who need it, leaving parents to lose work and kids to miss out on high-quality early learning opportunities.
- Increase subsidy payments to child care providers: Child care providers who receive state subsidies for children in their care must now participate in the state’s quality rating and improvement system. Increasing the amount of the subsidy payments will give family child care providers and center-based providers additional resources to help increase the quality of the care they provide.
- Expand home visiting: Washington state’s public and private investments in home visiting are paying off. Often started before a child is born, home visiting pairs professionals with families to work together on a regular basis as a way to strengthen families and give children the best start possible by improving maternal and child health, family self-sufficiency and school readiness. In 2017, legislators will be asked to invest in an expansion of the state’s home visiting efforts.