Parents, advocates and community leaders during this 2016 legislative session have advocated for greater investments in access to early learning for kids ages birth to 5 and their families. We’ve done it before: last year, the Early Start Act came with the largest investment in early learning in our state’s history. This historic achievement is improving early childhood education for more than 70,000 Washington children.
But the legislature is poised to undermine this progress. As they move into a special session to finalize the 2016-17 budget, both the House and Senate have proposed to supplant state-level dollars for the Early Start Act with federal dollars.
This would be a step backward. Those state-level funds represent the minimum investment needed in order to successfully implement the Early Start Act. The federal funds in question come with new requirements, like expanded services for infants and toddlers—efforts that our state can’t afford to defer. If that money is spent elsewhere, the result is a net cut to the resources kids and families need to get ahead.
Quality early learning is a proven strategy to deliver the great start that every child deserves. The legislature made a commitment to Washington’s kids with the Early Start Act: a commitment to reduce the opportunity gap and improve outcomes for children furthest from opportunity. These budget proposals undermine our ability to fulfill that promise.
Please join us in calling on state legislators to maintain state investments in the Early Start Act and appropriate new federal resources to new federal requirements.