The State Supreme Court earlier this month based a key decision on our state’s constitutional responsibility to provide a basic education to every child residing in Washington. During this legislative session, lawmakers can pass one bill that’s key to upholding that responsibility.
The High Quality Early Learning Act would establish universally accessible early learning programs for Washington 3- and 4-year-olds, while also strengthening programs that ensure the healthy development of infants and toddlers.
This is the necessary next step in our efforts to build a great state for our youngest Washingtonians. Quality child care, pre-kindergarten and parental assistance programs can narrow the opportunity gap that hobbles children in school and in life.
More than half of all kindergartners enter the classroom unprepared to fully benefit from the experience. Three years later, a number of them have not caught up. By third grade, low-income children, children of color and those who have had less exposure to English are less likely to be reading at grade level.
These disparate outcomes spring from one basic fact: children of similar abilities start their lives in different circumstances. The average number of words heard by a two-year-old with parents in the professional middle class is more than three times larger than the number heard by a child whose parents have very low incomes. Developmental gaps in language and cognitive skills show up as early as nine months of age.
One tenet of sustainable governing is to fix a problem when it starts. The prime time for kids to get on the right side of the opportunity gap is before they turn 5.
No matter a child’s race, her parent’s background, education or income, or the neighborhood she grows up in, each and every one of our state’s children deserves to have the fundamental early experiences that build brains capable of making the most of later experiences. Those early experiences don’t take place in a classroom – but they profoundly influence what goes on there.
In support of the High Quality Early Learning Act, early learning advocates are marshaling the facts each day during the 2012 session. Parents, educators, business owners and public safety professionals are involved; you can join them. For more information about the bill, contact Leslie Dozono, Early Learning Policy Director.