On December 1st, months of hard work on the part of advocates, policy makers, and early learning experts culminated in the submittal of a formal letter and a draft early learning plan to the Governor.
Director of the Department of Early Learning Bette Hyde, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, and President and CEO of Thrive by Five Washington Nina Auerbach proposed a set of Early Learning Recommendations to the Governor for action in 2010, representing an unprecedented effort to plan and consider near-term policies that would support a statewide early learning system for all children, from prenatal to grade three.
The 2010 recommendations bring together the work of over 40 organizations and many more individuals who served on a team to identify issues for possible legislation in the upcoming session.
The Early Learning Recommendations are meant to address near-term priorities for building a comprehensive, high-quality, early learning system in Washington State that looks at the needs of children from a health, mental health, early care and education, and parent and community support perspectives. The recommendations also speak to a larger, long-term Early Learning Plan (due to be released in March of 2010) currently being refined through a public input process by our state’s coordinating council on early learning, the Early Learning Advisory Council. The easiest way for the public to provide input is through the Department of Early Learning's online survey.
Among the set of recommendations for 2010 are:
- A voluntary, universal pre-kindergarten program for all 3- and 4-year olds to be included in the definition of basic education. The program would be phased-in, beginning with the most at-risk first, using an approach that would follow the state’s current phase-in of full-day Kindergarten.
- Funding and support for infants and toddlers that would be tied to funds for pre-K so that as more 3- and 4-year olds have access to pre-K, infants and toddlers receive the supports and services they need, too. These infant and toddler funds could be used to support current programs, such as home visiting, and other programs that support our youngest learners, such as services dedicated to infants and toddlers at-risk of developmental delay.
- The recommendation to continue our state’s efforts in children’s health by sustaining current funding and eligibility levels for Apple Health for Kids.
- Better integration and support for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C programs, which serve infants and toddlers with disabilities, within the state’s early learning programs to better support families with young children with disabilities.
In addition, the recommendations include a couple of overarching themes that are used to make the case for early learning. The strategies put forth were considered with specific focus and attention to those that address the preparation gap and issues of racial equity to ensure that early learning in Washington State addresses the needs of all children.
- Lauren Platt
Now that these recommendations have officially been forwarded to the Governor for consideration, the Governor will have a chance to review and refine what she wants to be included in an early learning “package” that would be introduced as a piece of legislation in the upcoming session.