In this edition, you’ll find a recap of this week’s U.S. Senate hearing on early learning, where lawmakers and advocates discussed including early learning in K-12 education reform – a Children’s Alliance priority. You’ll also find an opinion by J.B. Pritzker, an entrepreneur who sees early learning as vital to fixing our national economic crisis, and an opinion on how raising revenue in hard times preserves Washington state’s core values.
In an animated conversation on Capitol Hill Tuesday, lawmakers
and early education advocates grappled with what role early childhood
education should play in changing the Elementary and Secondary Education
Act (recently known as No Child Left Behind). The hearing – held by the
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee –
provided an opportunity to spotlight policies that would support
programs for children from pre-kindergarten up through third grade as
part of reforms to what has traditionally been considered a K-12 system.
Early education is the type of issue politicians nod their
heads at, and then when it comes time to make a tough decision, a
financial trade-off, inevitably it's about the first item tossed from
the table. It's not that public officials don't care; they just see
these programs as "nice to have" but not vital. We now know that's
absolutely not true. Early childhood education is an urgent educational,
economic and moral imperative. Without it, we face a long-term national
economic security crisis.
Depending on what ballot measures are before voters in
November, the state may have a lot more chance to talk about the revenue
increases approved by the legislature and governor. But, for now, it's
important to understand that Washington acted in a balanced way, like
most others states, and protected the state's core values.
The percentage of public schools where more than three quarters
of students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch — a key
indicator of poverty — has increased in the past decade, and children at
these schools are less likely to attend college or be taught by
teachers with advanced degrees.
Policymakers need to know what works if they want to build a
quality early learning system, which is why it’s big news that
Washington State won $17.3 million to build a statewide data system that
will track student progress from pre-kindergarten to work.
In March, Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill
requiring that foster youth be informed of their right to counsel. It is
the first time in decades that the Washington Legislature has addressed
the issue of legal representation for foster youth. The bill, HB 2735,
which passed out of the House and Senate unanimously, will go into
effect June 10, 2010.
The short-term consequences of Washington’s budget cuts are
already visible here. With cuts to public safety and unemployment
insurance, to children’s education and child care services, millions of
our most vulnerable residents are less secure economically, physically
and socially than they were just 12 months ago. And unless we fix that,
we’re risking some serious long-term effects on our state’s business
climate and economic competitiveness.