When the White House on Friday announced the nine winners of the Early Learning Challenge Fund, Washington State passed a significant landmark. Ours was one of nine states awarded funds to improve their early learning systems. The state will get $60 million over four years.
This new recognition is one of the most significant moments in the history of early learning in Washington, and it didn’t just happen by accident. Years of committed advocacy by the Children’s Alliance and our allies, combined with strong leadership by the legislature and Governor, moved our state to build the foundation of a strong early learning system. The roots of our Early Learning Challenge Fund victory took hold when the Children’s Alliance and others lobbied the legislature to establish the Department of Early Learning in 2006.
Our advocacy work was exemplified most recently by an educational tour and presentation of world-class research on early learning with our partners at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.
These new funds will help our state continue on the important path of making sure all kids in Washington have the opportunities to be successful in school and life.
We are proud of this honor and now look forward to the next steps. One of them will be the implementation of a statewide Quality Rating and Improvement System, which will provide information to parents about the quality of child care across the state and also help child care professionals further their skills -- in recognition of the invaluable role they play in preparing children for success in school and in life.
The proposal also laid out plans for full implementation of our kindergarten transition program, the Washington Inventory of Developing Skills. We need to ensure that what we have learned gets applied, that the innovative solutions we have identified get implemented, that what we have started gets finished.
Congress showed bipartisan support for quality early childhood education earlier this year when it directed a portion of Race to the Top funds to improve early learning programs to our nation’s youngest children. We are heartened that at both the state and national levels, there is clear understanding that investments in early learning are a smart priority.
The Early Learning Action Alliance has been hard at work on state legislation directed at improving state policy on the Quality Rating and Improvement System. We believe it will continue to strengthen Washington’s efforts to improve quality across the state. At the same time, we are asking legislators to move from knowledge to action by expanding access to high-quality early learning for children from birth to five.
We are encouraged by the recognition of the progress in Washington State for young children and excited about the work ahead.