Have a Heart for Kids Day rally, 2015

Supporting Quality Early Learning

Adam 06/29/13

toddler
Washington’s children are worth investing in. And one of the biggest payoffs for all of us comes when we invest in their first five years – when early learning helps kids create a brighter tomorrow. 

There’s promising news for children ages birth to 5, and therefore for our shared future. New state-by-state data shows that the President’s Preschool for All proposal would benefit 7,451 Washington children from low- and moderate-income families in the first year alone.

Quality pre-K helps kids build success in K-12 and saves money down the line. Brains are like buildings: they start with a foundation. Birth to age 5 is a crucial time to give kids the kinds of enriching environments that help them make smart choices, express their feelings, control their impulses and learn the other behaviors that put them on a solid footing for the rest of their lives.

It’s easier, more effective, and less expensive to equip kids with these skills early than to play catch-up later on.

As Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large noted last week, more and more public officials see the virtues of early learning — but our investments have far to go before they match the popularity of programs like Head Start or the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).

Perhaps that’s changing. In the past month, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — including provisions to enhance early childhood education programs. Washington Senator Patty Murray is a co-sponsor of the reauthorization bill.

Also in the Senate, a bipartisan bill has been introduced to reauthorize the Child Care Development Block Grant, which supports child care and early learning systems across the country. The reauthorization recognizes that child care is an integral part of young children’s learning experience — a shift happening here in Washington state, as well, with the passage of the Early Start bill.

At a recent hearing before the Senate Budget Committee, lawmakers heard directly from Sakhia Whitehead, a 10-year-old Head Start graduate, about how Head Start has helped her stay on the honor roll in school.

Strengthening early childhood investments will not only put more children like Sakhia on a path to success, but it also strengthens our entire economy and our nation’s future.

Senator Murray’s leadership on early learning springs from the knowledge that it works. “We’ve got decades of research showing that quality early childhood education can have enormous benefits for young children — and our country as a whole,” she said on Wednesday, June 25. “And we know that expanding quality, affordable early education could help millions of working parents — and parents who want to work — right now. We have a moral imperative to stop just talking about this and start getting something done.”

Strong leadership by elected officials is possible when backed with strong public support. One way you can help guide Congress’s efforts is by joining with others to Grow America Stronger. Building the supports worthy of our children takes all of us: parents, advocates, public officials and community leaders.