By Lizzeth Mancilla
Engagement and Policy Intern


Representative Tana Senn (left) and Senator Claire Wilson (right)

In this webinar, Washington state Representative Tana Senn and Senator Claire Wilson, prime sponsors of the Fair Start for Kids Act (House Bill 1213 and Senate Bill 5237), explain how their omnibus legislation takes strong steps to address child care and early learning affordability, access, and the economic crisis. They also answered questions from the audience.

Child care is invaluable both for our education system and the economy by providing countless benefits to families and businesses. Not only is it a place for parents to drop-off their children while they go to work, but it is also a place that provides high-quality early learning. Parents need child care just as much as their children do. It also serves as a key racial equity strategy by closing the gap of the number of students who start kindergarten behind. At least 50% of children start kindergarten already behind, with an even greater impact among students of color. 

Yet, despite the many benefits of child care, it is a broken market. “Small businesses can’t raise prices even though there’s high demand because there’s only so much parents can afford to pay. It’s not a traditional supply and demand market,” said Representative Senn. 

According to a study from the Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Washington Business, and other stakeholders, Washington’s economy loses $6 billion a year because of a lack of child care, with businesses losing $2 billion a year. Another cost is that parents forgo $14 billion a year because of a lack of child care by not taking a job, a promotion, working full-time, getting a higher education degree, etc. Lastly, Washington loses $1 billion in tax revenue.

Although these benefits and costs resulting from a lack of child care are well known, only 1% of state revenue is spent on early learning. The COVID pandemic this past year has greatly impacted child care even more. 26% of child care businesses are closed. However, essential workers and those working in non-office jobs still rely on access to child care. Therefore, the risk has shifted from schools that are closed to child care centers that are open. In addition, as Representative Senn explained, this pandemic has resulted in a “she-cession” as women have been losing their jobs at much higher rates due to schools, afterschool programs, and child care being closed. 

The Fair Start for Kids Act consists of many components where the focus is to expand access to affordable child care. Here’s what the bill would do:

  1. Support workforce and expand supply: 
    • Provide higher pay, health care (for the first time), and professional development opportunities in order to be in the child care industry
    • Capital investments through Early Learning Facilities Fund
    • Make sure businesses who want to offer child care have the technical assistance they need 
  2. Make it more affordable for more families
    • Reduce co-pays
    • As our minimum rate continues to increase, it’ll be important to work with the state median income as a threshold rather than the federal poverty line. 
  3. Dual language, trauma-informed, mental health consultation
    • Washington has an incredibly diverse population with more than 50% of kindergartners being students of color
    • Providing trauma-informed care and mental health consultation for kids who need it
  4. Pushes out ECEAP entitlement
  5. Will be phased in over time

Representative Tana Senn and Senator Claire Wilson, along with others, worked tirelessly to introduce this bill. “We already knew it was a problem, it’s been one we’ve been trying to solve for many many years. The pandemic has only exacerbated what we already knew. As we move forward, I think the most exciting thing with the Fair Start for Kids Act is it’s not only Representative Senn and I that are talking about it, but every other member that thinks about economic recovery and what it means to come back to work. And what it means to come back to school, because what this legislation also does is meet the needs of families who have school-aged children like your own,” said Senator Wilson.


Watch the full LEVinar recording here

Participate in our Action Alert to support the Fair Start for Kids Act 

Read our 2021 Legislative Priority Issue Brief: Early Childhood Education (PDF)


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