Gov. Chris Gregoire signed three early learning bills into law today that will do big things to improve the lives of our state’s littlest learners.
2SHB 2731 solidifies Washington’s commitment to providing comprehensive preschool services to low-income and other disadvantaged children. The goal is to make the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) a service that children are entitled to receive – much like Apple Health for Kids coverage. The Children’s Alliance and our Early Learning Action Alliance partners had hoped our state would add preschool for at-risk kids to its definition of basic education. But this new law strikes a thoughtful and balanced compromise that promises to improve early learning opportunities for all.
SSB 6759 picks up where 2SHB 2731 leaves off and creates a plan to answer some of the outstanding questions about how Washington will roll out the system giving all at-risk kids access to preschool. It will maintain our state’s focus on improving outcomes for all children, and seamlessly integrating high-quality early childhood education with our K-12 system.
2SHB 2867 updates state law with findings about how critical a role early learning programs play for children in the first three years of life. It requires the Department of Early Learning, with others, to prepare a plan by December 2010 outlining how the state will provide a continuum of services to at-risk infants and toddlers, and recommend funding levels for those services.
One early learning bill we’re still encouraging the governor to sign is E2SHB 3141. By requiring less frequent reauthorizations for Working Connections Child Care – once every 12 months instead of the current six months – this bill would allow parents to focus on work and training, help providers to better plan for the families they serve, and prevent unnecessary disruptions in child care.
There’s still time to write the governor and make the case for smart changes that will better support parents as they make the transition from welfare to self-sufficiency.
– Liz Gillespie
(Photo by Children's Alliance Early Learning Associate Casey Osborn)