In the past two weeks hundreds of parents in Seattle, Tacoma, Bellingham and Kirkland met with Bette Hyde, Director of the Department of Early Learning, Nina Auerbach, President of Thrive by Five Washington, and Superintendent of Public Schools Randy Dorn to talk about the challenges they face as they care for and educate their young children. You may have heard about the early learning town halls as a member of LEV or MomsRising or the other great groups who made these meetings happen (Foundation for Early Learning, local PTAs, Children’s Alliance, CCR&R, and Washington Head Start/ECEAP Association).
So, why did parents brave the rain and cold?
Their feedback will help shape early learning recommendations for the 2010 Legislative Session and a ten-year early learning plan to be delivered to Governor Gregoire next month. These parents wanted to make sure that Washington’s Early Learning Plan will help their children succeed in school and life.
Did our input make a difference?
Access and affordability. We heard you loud and clear – but will the Early Learning Plan reflect that? Our discussion made a big difference on many levels, but we’re far from finished. While the 2010 recommendations are not final, the Department of Early Learning released preliminary recommendations to Gov. Gregoire and much of the feedback has been incorporated in these thoughts. The full document is available on the Department of Early Learning’s website, and here is a short summary:
- Birth through 3 Continuum. Build and fund an aligned, integrated continuum of supports, services and programs for all children birth to age 3, and their families. Ensuring that infants and toddlers have good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences will lay the foundation for success throughout their lives. Because this is also a critical period for meaningful intervention for children at‐risk, and with special needs, a first focus will be on early invention programs and services, such as: developmental screening; home visitation; programs consistent with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C; Family, Friend and Neighbors support; and Early Head Start.
- Voluntary Universal Prekindergarten for 4‐year olds implemented in mixed‐delivery system. Prekindergarten programs for 4‐year olds aim to promote the acquisition of skills, knowledge, and behaviors that are associated with success in elementary school. “Universal” means that the program is universally available (or nearly so) but that parents are free to enroll their children or not as they see fit. Create voluntary universal preschool program for 4‐year‐olds as part of basic education; phase in to serve highest poverty communities first. Integrate and coordinate phase‐in of all‐day K with phase‐in of universal preschool for 4‐year‐olds.
- State‐Funded Full‐Day Kindergarten – Enhancing Equity, Continuity and Quality Based on research, the Legislature prioritized full‐day kindergarten funding for schools with the highest percentage of students living in poverty (as measured by the number of students eligible for free and reduced‐price lunch). Full‐day kindergarten gives young children, particularly those living in poverty, the time to learn the foundational skills and knowledge that is so important to future school success.
- Early Literacy. Promote early literacy and reading success in school for children birth through 3rd grade in the context of whole child development.
- Early Learning Educator/Provider Supports. Continue to implement and expand a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) so that early learning and school‐age providers have the support and resources necessary to improve the quality of their programs and environments and so that families have the necessary consumer education to choose high quality programs for their children. Ensure that licensing is the foundation of QRIS, and that all licensed early learning programs participate. As QRIS is implemented, ensure that it is: tied to child care subsidy (e.g. tiered reimbursement); and integrated within the Professional Development Consortium’s recommendations for a comprehensive professional development system that focuses on achieving high‐quality, and that promotes a qualified and well compensated early learning workforce.
- Enhance/Strengthen the Early Learning System Infrastructure. Continue to develop, strengthen and resource infrastructure elements needed to support the early learning system so that it functions effectively and with quality.
- Strengthen Partnerships with Families and Communities. Promote and support parenting education and information. Engage parents, families, caregivers, and communities in shaping policies and systems.
- Health Insurance and Medical Home. All children have health insurance and a medical home.
We are far from finished.
If you weren’t able to attend a meeting or if you did and have concerns about the list of priorities, there is still time to weigh in! The Drafting Team will be completing their recommendations in the next week and delivering them to Gov. Gregoire on December 1st. Please continue to weigh in on the Department of Early Learning survey or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the 2010 Legislative Recommendations and the Early Learning Plan, you can visit the Department of Early Learning website.