The National Institute for Early Education Research recently released its annual State of Preschool Yearbook.
For 2015, Washington’s state-funded preschool ranked 32nd.
Here is what’s behind that rating: Washington met nine out of 10 quality standard benchmarks. We received high marks in dual language learner policies and were one of 14 states that can report the home language of every pre-K student. However, Washington does not require pre-K teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, nor does it provide salary parity between pre-K and K-3 teachers.
Our state preschool program also doesn’t reach enough kids. While our program is lauded nationally for its comprehensive and high-quality services for children and their families, and its graduates outperform their peers in elementary math and reading, only eight percent of 4-year-olds have access to it and only three percent of 3-year-olds do.
Modeled after the federal Head Start program, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) serves families with incomes at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level and children who face developmental or environmental risk factors that could interfere with school success.
During the 2014-15 school year, ECEAP enrolled 10,091 children. This year, 11,700 children are in the program. In fall 2020, ECEAP is supposed to become an entitlement for all eligible children.
While Washington state is eager to expand its program, early learning partners want to make sure we maintain ECEAP’s high quality. Thrive currently coordinates a regular gathering of stakeholders and the Department of Early Learning to think through the best practices and strategies for strengthening and expanding ECEAP. The group expects to advocate for the expansion of ECEAP during the next legislative session.