It’s time for Washington state to invest in our children – all of them. This means funding the Early Start Act so our youngest citizens benefit from high quality childcare and early learning.
In its 2012 McCleary decision, our state Supreme Court mandated an increased investment in K-12 education to fulfill our constitutional obligation and ensure students have resources and skills they need to succeed. The court recognized that fewer than 50 percent of children enter kindergarten ready to learn. Sadly, when children start school behind, they generally stay behind. We can’t turn this around without a cohesive system of high quality early learning programs accessible to every child – infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Learning doesn’t begin in kindergarten. Children’s very earliest experiences, beginning at birth, impact their developing brains and form the foundation for their futures, for better or worse. Research shows high quality early learning programs generate about $2 for every dollar invested and increase graduation rates by up to 44 percent. Children who participate in these programs have better math and reading skills, fewer special education placements, and higher earnings in adulthood. Children who do not have the opportunity to benefit from high quality early childhood care and education end up starting kindergarten behind.
The Legislature must stand up for our youngest children and make investments now that will pay off for all of us – our kids, families, communities, and economy. I urge legislators to fully fund the Early Start Act.