2019 Legislative Priority: Early Childhood Education – Home Visiting

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

We believe students come first. We are focused first and foremost on meeting the needs of every student.

We are dedicated to designing an equitable education system that serves all students based on their strengths, supports their needs, and provides the resources they need to be successful.

We are committed to working to close gaps experienced by historically and systemically underserved students— including students of color, students in poverty, students qualifying for special education services, students learning English, and students impacted by trauma. We believe this will lead to all students experiencing greater success and reaching their full potential.

WHY WE SUPPORT HOME VISITING

Preschool student - League of Education VotersIn 2018, our state had a 30-point kindergarten readiness gap between kindergarteners from low income families and their non-low income peers. Kindergarten readiness is one variable that supports kids to do well in elementary school and beyond, and the income-based opportunity gap means that children from low income households will have more work to reach grade level than their peers.

Home visiting – an early childhood education strategy in which a nurse or other professional coordinates services to families in their home – is an intervention proven by four decades of research to significantly improve kindergarten readiness for children born to low income families. Improved educational outcomes also include higher grade point averages (GPAs), higher language scores, higher achievement scores at age nine, and even higher high school graduation rates (1). Expanding high-quality home visiting programs in Washington state not only allows us to maximize our K-12 investments – it also helps parents provide the nurturing kids need at just the right point in their lives. Home visiting improves physical and mental health and development (2), and decreases the likelihood of abuse or neglect (3) while improving family economic self-sufficiency (4). Twenty years of academic research confirms that home visiting can change the trajectory of a child and their entire family. Read More

2019 Legislative Priority: Early Childhood Education – Reimbursement Rates

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

We believe students come first. We are focused first and foremost on meeting the needs of every student.

We are dedicated to designing an equitable education system that serves all students based on their strengths, supports their needs, and provides the resources they need to be successful.

We are committed to working to close gaps experienced by historically and systemically underserved students— including students of color, students in poverty, students qualifying for special education services, students learning English, and students impacted by trauma. We believe this will lead to all students experiencing greater success and reaching their full potential.

WHY REIMBURSEMENT RATES ARE IMPORTANT

Preschool students - League of Education VotersHigh-quality early childhood education can ensure that kids start school kindergarten ready, and increase test scores throughout their elementary and high school education (1). These benefits are particularly important for kids from low income families, who face more income-related stress and are more likely to have all parents working. Currently, only 33% of kindergarteners from low-income households enter school fully kindergarten ready – nearly half the rate of kindergarten readiness for their non-low income peers (2). Read More

Student Voice: How ECEAP Changed My Life

By Lauryn Terry
Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger Lauryn Terry - League of Education VotersMy name is Lauryn Terry and I am 14 years old from Olympia, WA. When I was 3, I was an ECEAP student. ECEAP, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, taught me a lot of things. I remember being little and people not being able to understand me when I was talking. When I went to preschool, people there helped me to communicate better. I didn’t know it then, but I know now that they helped my mom get me the help I needed to get surgery on my ears, speech therapy, and to learn how to talk and make me able to hear.

I remember we went on a lot of cool educational field trips, to places like the Capitol and a fish hatchery. I also learned a lot about nature. We would have a lot of play time, but I didn’t realize I was actually learning at the same time. Teachers would read to us and sing songs, and I remember I really loved my preschool teacher. I really also liked the cool trikes and the outside time, even when it was raining – playing in the covered area was always fun. I think that’s where my love of nature began. Read More

2019 Legislative Priority: Early Childhood Education – ECEAP

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

We believe students come first. We are focused first and foremost on meeting the needs of every student.

We are dedicated to designing an equitable education system that serves all students based on their strengths, supports their needs, and provides the resources they need to be successful.

We are committed to working to close gaps experienced by historically and systemically underserved students— including students of color, students in poverty, students qualifying for special education services, students learning English, and students impacted by trauma. We believe this will lead to all students experiencing greater success and reaching their full potential.

WHY WE SUPPORT THE EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

Preschool students - League of Education VotersWhen Washington state five-year-olds arrive in kindergarten each year, they are beginning an educational journey on which some of them are already behind their classmates. Our state has a 30-point kindergarten readiness gap – only 31% of kindergarteners from low income families are fully school ready, compared to 60% of their non-low income peers (1).

To achieve readiness for all Washington children, some kids need more support, earlier. Washington has initiated a high-impact, research-proven early childhood education intervention program: the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) (2). Read More

2019 Legislative Priority: Early Childhood Education

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

We believe students come first. We are focused first and foremost on meeting the needs of every student.

We are dedicated to designing an equitable education system that serves all students based on their strengths, supports their needs, and provides the resources they need to be successful.

We are committed to working to close gaps experienced by historically and systemically underserved students— including students of color, students in poverty, students qualifying for special education services, students learning English, and students impacted by trauma. We believe this will lead to all students experiencing greater success and reaching their full potential.

DATA

Preschool students - League of Education Voters90% of human brain growth happens from birth to age six, but 98% of our state’s educational investments happen after kids reach age five.

Increasing our state investments in the crucial ages from birth to age five supports improved educational outcomes throughout a child’s life. High-quality early childhood education has positive impacts on kindergarten readiness (1), third grade reading levels (2), performance on tests throughout elementary school and to the end of high school (3), high school graduation (4), and enrollment and persistence in postsecondary education (5). The benefits also encompass a wide array of positive societal outcomes, including less engagement with the criminal justice system, and increased earnings and family stability as an adult (6). Home visiting – an early childhood education strategy in which a nurse or other professional coordinates services to families in their home – decreases the likelihood of abuse or neglect (7) while improving family economic self-sufficiency (8). Read More

Early Childhood Education Honors East African Culture

East African Development Center - League of Education VotersSouth Seattle’s Voices of Tomorrow East African Development Center began in September of 2017 and hopes to become the country’s first certified dual language preschool in Somali. Five languages besides English are currently spoken: Somali, Amharic, Oromo, Arabic, and Vietnamese. English appears only on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Somali is spoken on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Honoring Somali culture and language is the center’s primary goal. Director Zam Zam Mohamed says, “There is plenty of opportunity to learn English, but not so many opportunities to learn Somali.” By focusing on Somali, family structures are maintained at home instead of succumbing to challenges faced by many immigrant communities, where children become translators for their parents and devalue their parents’ cultures. Read More

How High Quality Early Childhood Education Changes Lives: A Parent’s Story

By Kami Smith
Guest Blogger

ECEAP Parent Kami Smith - League of Education Voters“What is ECEAP?” This is the question that I have been asked countless times and I still get so excited to answer it. While the boring, generic answer would be Washington state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, I never respond with this because to me, the name does not do the program justice. I would find it more aptly named if it were called A Family’s Second Chance, or just simply Opportunity Early Learning, because that’s what the program has meant for me and my family.

ECEAP is an early learning program offered to impoverished or vulnerable families with 3- and 4-year-olds. My family came to the program just two weeks after I was treated for severe anxiety and depression, and I wasn’t feeling like a successful parent at the time. I thought the least I could do was enroll my kids in a preschool where they could play with other kids, and maybe do an art project that I would not have to clean up after. I never could have imagined how this program would not only nurture and enrich my children’s lives, but mine as well.

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2018 Legislative Priority: Early Childhood Education

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

32.6 percent of low-income five-year-olds enter Washington schools fully kindergarten-ready.

In comparison, 60% of non-low income five year olds enter school kindergarten ready.

This 30-point opportunity gap – unequal access to the resources necessary for academic success – contributes over time to the assessment, graduation, and dropout rate gaps currently experienced by Washington’s low-income students.

Washington has worked diligently over the past two decades to increase early childhood education opportunities to close this gap. National and state-level research proves that quality early learning environments – like the Washington Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) – can help close the opportunity gap. Even better, it does so with a $4.75 return on every $1 invested. One study that compared test scores from 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who attended ECEAP to those who did not found that ECEAP alumni earned significantly higher math and reading scores – as good or better than the most effective pre-K programs nationally.

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Why Early Learning Matters

Pre-K teacher Julia Brady uses handmade rekenrek’s with her students during a math lesson at South Shore Pre-K. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

By Kristin DeWitte
Principal of South Shore Pre K-8
Guest Blogger

On my first day of first grade, I stood up and said that I wanted to become a teacher. I never wavered from that goal. As I got older, I had the opportunity to work in a school for children with disabilities about the time that PL 94-142 (the first special education law) went into place. I went to Central Washington University and earned my degree in Special Education with an elementary minor. Later in my career I went on to complete two Master’s degrees, the first in Curriculum and Instruction, and the second in Educational Leadership.

I worked most of my career In the Marysville School District, about half the time in special education and the remainder of the time in general education. I have taught kindergarten, first grade, second grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, resource room, elementary, middle school, and high school EBD (Emotional and Behavioral Disorder) classrooms. I have also worked on the core education faculty at Antioch-Seattle, the adjunct faculty at Western Washington University at Bellingham, Everett, North and South Seattle satellite campuses. I was the original developer of both distance and online learning components of continuing education for Seattle Pacific University. And I have consulted on a variety of topics in an eight-state region of the Northwest and Southwest US.

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An Early Learning Perspective on the House and Senate Budget Proposals

Jennifer Jennings-Shaffer, Children's Alliance - League of Education VotersBy Jennifer Jennings-Shaffer, Early Learning Policy Director at the Children’s Alliance
Guest Blogger

Early learning is the foundation of the education continuum; it supports a child’s progress in school and in life. The House and Senate budget proposals each address early learning—but differ markedly in their approach to three key areas of interest to education advocates. Here’s how:

First, both budgets recognize the value of access to high quality pre-kindergarten. The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is quality pre-kindergarten for income-eligible children who all too often face barriers to success in K-12. When poverty and other barriers tip the scales of child development toward the negative, ECEAP tips them back toward a good education, a good job, and a good life. Eligible families earn less than 110 percent of the federal poverty line—for a family of four, that is less than $26,730 per year. Despite delivering proven results in academic achievement, lawmakers fund ECEAP for fewer than half of our state’s eligible families—leaving approximately 23,000 children eligible but unserved. This is a missed opportunity.

The Senate budget proposes to provide access to ECEAP for an additional 1,200 children and increase the rate paid per ECEAP slot to more accurately support our early-childhood educators. The House budget proposes to provide access to an additional 2,043 children and also increases the slot rate. The House budget builds upon the proposal from the Senate; it is good progress toward ensuring that children who stand to gain the most from access to high quality pre-kindergarten get it.

Second, neither budget proposal responds to the crisis we see in child care, where lawmakers are giving working families inadequate support to meet rising costs. Washington is already one of the least affordable states in the country for families to find child care. The rates paid to center-based child care providers serving tens of thousands of children in the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) program are far below the nationally recommended benchmark of 75 percent of market rate. When lawmakers try to offer assistance at these inadequate rates, child care providers face a difficult choice: serve families at a loss, stop serving them, or pass the cost on to (often only slightly) more affluent families to make up the difference. Lawmakers need to respond by raising rates for Working Connections Child Care paid to center-based providers. Neither the House nor the Senate budget adequately addresses this issue. The Senate budget includes $8.1 million for rate increases and the House budget includes $20.3 million. Advocates estimate that $40 million is the minimum investment necessary to protect access to child care.

Beyond failing to adequately address child care rates, the Senate budget includes deep cuts to child care access and quality. The Senate budget proposes a cut of -$31.9 million in access to WCCC. This cut includes eliminating 12-month authorizations for families and decreasing the number of families who can be enrolled in the program. If enacted, these cuts would mean that enrolled families could lose care in the middle of the year due to minor changes in their circumstances. Families who need and qualify for care would find themselves on a waitlist. Additionally, the Senate budget proposes to cut the Early Achievers program by $16.6 million. Early Achievers supports child care providers to improve their quality. These cuts put the brakes on our steady progress to ensure that Washington kids enter kindergarten ready to learn.

Third, evidence-based home visiting programs and paid family leave are both proven strategies for supporting parents as their child’s first and most important teacher. Both the House and Senate budgets protect access to home visiting services but only the House budget includes funding to implement paid family leave. Quality time at home with one’s newest family members is associated with improved maternal and infant health outcomes and increased employee retention. State and local governments across the country are increasingly implementing this smart policy.

We all have a stake in making sure that ALL our kids get a great start. As the House, the Senate and Governor Jay Inslee prepare to finalize a two-year state budget, we are calling on lawmakers to sustain and enhance their early learning investments. Children’s brains develop more rapidly in the first five years of life than at any other time. We cannot hope to close the achievement gap in K-12 if we ignore the early years.