President Barack Obama grabbed headlines recently for his renewed push to build a better early education system. But the president is just trying to catch up with states, where work has been gathering momentum for years.
Since the president’s latest push in his State of the Union address, a set of writers have pointed out the deep support among both parties in states and communities for larger investments in child care, preschool and pre-kindergarten.
This support ranges from statewide efforts, such as Washington state’s, to neighborhoods, including Eastside in San Antonio, Texas, where community leaders are working to turn around schools by improving kindergarten readiness.
In Washington, the drive to improve early learning dates back nine years to the Washington Learns panel, which called for greater investments in early education after a comprehensive review of the state’s educational system.
Since then the executive branch and Legislature have steadily constructed a model early learning system, including a kindergarten readiness and transition program, WaKIDS and a quality rating and improvement system, Early Achievers. Today, WaKIDS covers students in every state-funded kindergarten classroom, according to the state’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. And, Washington enrolled more than 30 percent of all licensed child care providers in its QRIS system.
Now, Gov. Jay Inslee has picked up where former Gov. Christine Gregoire, who helped lead Washington’s pioneering early learning work, left off when her second term ended last year. Inslee has supported expanding preschool and other key investments, even as he dealt with tight state budgets.
Perhaps as important as all of this progress in states and communities is that Republican and Democratic politicians are supporting the work. Obama and Congress could learn more than a few lessons from them as they try to agree on federal early learning legislation.
If you want to read more about state and local progress beyond Washington state, check out:
- “Pre-K Remains Hot State Policy Topic: Governors, legislators press early education.” Education Week, 2/4/14.
- “A New Entitlement? The Right To Preschool.” The Associated Press, via NPR, 2/14/14.