Fall Preview: It Could Be a Busy Few Months for Early Learning

We are in the final days of summer, and this fall holds the promise of important developments in early learning in the other Washington, and here in Washington state.


Earlier this year, the U.S. House and Senate may have surprised more than a few people by passing different versions of legislation that would change and reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act, which governs much of public education. The bill focuses on K-12, but there are important early learning issues. The Senate bill, for example, could make it easier to invest federal dollars in early education, New America reports in “Bipartisan ECAA Doesn’t Go Far Enough to Guarantee Equitable, Quality Education for All.” Check out the story for a breakdown of the Senate bill, including Washington Sen. Patty Murray’s proposal to support literacy.


Now, the House and Senate have to resolve the many differences between the two versions as early as this fall. It is unlikely negotiators will be able to craft an agreement and send a final bill to President Barack Obama’s desk by the end of the year, according to Laura Bornfreund, deputy director of New America’s Early Education Initiative. But, the fact that both legislative bodies were able to pass legislation is encouraging.


This fall, Congress also has to pass its annual spending measures, and there is plenty at stake for early learning. The measures could have an impact on the Obama administration’s Preschool Development Grants, Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant and other early education programs. Read “FY 2016 Budget Could Leave Vulnerable Children at Risk” for a good breakdown.


As Congress considers these issues, support for early learning is showing up in the private sector and political arena. The chief executive officer of pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly and Company, John Lechleiter, explains why “Early Childhood Education Offers Unique Chance For Bipartisan Consensus,” in Forbes.


There also are encouraging signs of political support in Sara Mead’s “A 2016 Preschool Primer: Where do the GOP candidates stand on early childhood education?” that ran in U.S. News & World Report this month.


Closer to home, King County voters will vote on Best Starts for Kids in November. Earlier this summer, Jackie Bezos, an emeritus member of Thrive Washington’s board and president of the Bezos Family Foundation, laid out a compelling case for the proposal.


Through the proposed Best Starts for Kids program, our local leaders are coming together and putting the needs of children and families at the center of their decision-making. In doing so, they are setting an important example for the rest of our nation’s communities, demonstrating how governments can legislate with our collective future success in mind — a future that starts with our kids. — “Investing in children increases their chance for success.” The Seattle Times, 7/20/15.


This fall, it also will be worth tracking Seattle’s launch of its new preschool program.


Further Reading:

A couple of other interesting stories on play and elevating early learning work: