State lawmakers are talking a lot about how to fulfill our Constitutional promise of educational opportunity to Washington’s children. Many of them recognize that we get the greatest return on our educational investment when we fill classrooms with children who are ready to learn.
Brains are like buildings; they rest on the foundation laid down by a child’s earliest experiences. That’s why sound nutrition, healthy mothers, stable living situations and primary care are all so essential. And also why early learning is so important.
So it’s been a great achievement for the Children’s Alliance and our friends to push a new bill through its chamber of origin and on to the Senate, where it will be heard in committee this Friday.
The Early Start bill (H.B. 1723) opens up early learning opportunities for children ages birth to 5. It enlarges the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) so more eligible children can enroll. It expands home visiting and other parent/caregiver support programs, so parents can nurture their young children’s developing brains. It brings parents, providers, and other policy experts together to design an early system that makes the most of limited state and federal funds.
Kids need us to take these steps. Every one of our state’s children needs an equal opportunity for high-quality early learning before they reach kindergarten. But gaps in our system mean some kids never have the opportunity to get ready for school.
Disparities in cognitive, social, behavioral and health status can be detected in nine-month-old babies. Left unmended, these gaps increase with age.
The Early Learning Action Alliance has called on legislators to focus at least 30 percent of our new investments in early learning toward children in their first three years of life. That’s a smart move; early investments are the best way to mend the gap and keep our promise of opportunity to all kids.