I was trying to think of a type of transportation that I haven’t used in the past month. From walking and busing across the Seattle area to meet with partner organizations, to driving round trips to our state’s Capitol in Olympia, to flying across the state to Spokane and Wenatchee to connect with board members and grantees – I’ve been racking up some serious mileage.
What’s universal about all of my meetings, conferences, speeches and convenings is that I’m getting a first-hand look at how much excitement people in Washington continue to have about supporting families to help their kids get a great start.
And my fall travels aren’t over yet – see me in action on TV tomorrow! – but more about that later.
One event from the past month that stands out for me is an early learning forum organized by the League of Women Voters in downtown Seattle. I shared the stage with Luba Bezborodnikova of Educare of Greater Seattle and Tom Halversen, a professor in the College of Education at the University of Washington.
The three of us were charged with helping the League members and others gain a foundational knowledge of existing preschool efforts in Washington, and how we can build successful and sustainable early learning programs here.
I took on a big question: What is the vision for publicly supported pre-K in our state? Funding preschool is great, but we must also continue to invest in the programs, services and supports for children from birth to 3. We can’t fund preschool and believe that we’re done. The opportunity gap can be seen before a child’s first birthday and often leads to a lifetime of catch up.
While we have a high-level goal of making universal pre-K happen throughout our state, we don’t have a timeline to achieve it. But an important step is the expansion of the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program, or ECEAP, which provides free services and supports to eligible children and their families. By 2018-19, we’ll have almost 20,000 slots for 3- and 4-year-olds, but we will still have a ways to go.
That means getting creative about blending funding streams and focusing our efforts at Thrive to support the families furthest from opportunity.
Speaking of the future … I’ll keep traveling the state in October to talk about early learning issues and Thrive’s work. I will be participating tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 27) in KBTC’s launch of the national American Graduate Project. At the Tacoma PBS affiliate, I’ll be part of a national broadcast event dedicated to engaging our country around the high school dropout crisis. I’m excited about the opportunity to talk about the connection between early learning and later success. Studies show that kids who receive high-quality early learning are less likely to drop out of school.
I’ll also be on the road at the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) Education Leadership Initiative in Yakima on Oct. 10 and the Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition 2014 “Our Kids: Our Business Luncheon” on Oct. 21.
See you soon!