By Kaitie Dong, Policy Manager
The first five years of a child’s life sets the foundation for their future well-being and success. When children participate in early learning and child care programs, they demonstrate academic success, greater social emotional health, and economic prosperity later in their lives. When these programs are accessible and affordable for Black and brown families, working families, and immigrant families, we come closer to closing the opportunity gap and ensuring that all children have what they need to thrive.
Early learning is not only beneficial for our youngest learners, it is good for everyone. These programs provide job opportunities and stability for many women of color and multilingual workers who serve as early learning and child care educators across Washington state. When high quality early learning and child care is accessible for all families, more than one-fourth of Washington families can return to work to generate income to provide for their loved ones and contribute to the economy.
We have an opportunity this 2023 legislative session to ensure all families have access to high quality early learning programs. We’re calling on lawmakers to:
Support and Fairly Compensate our Early Learning Educators: Early learning and child care educators deserve fair compensation that reflects the true value of their work. By paying educators a fair wage, we can retain and grow the workforce, and particularly invest in women of color. A robust workforce will help increase the amount of child care and early learning programs available to families.
Increase Access to Quality Child Care: 67% of families in Washington state do not have access to high quality and affordable child care. Lawmakers can help families pay for quality child care by expanding eligibility for Working Connections Child Care.
Care for our Mental Well-Being: Even before the pandemic, young kids and their teachers were facing increasing mental and behavioral health challenges. More than 60% of child care providers express that they require mental health support to help kids they care for to thrive. Lawmakers can give families and providers what they need by investing in funds and partnerships that center kids' mental health.
Invest in Critical Early Learning and Child Care Programs: Washington state is committed to ensuring that every child has a fair start to life by making Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) accessible to low-income families by 2026-2027. Help guarantee all children have access to ECEAP and critical early programs that set them up for success by asking lawmakers to fully provide these services in our state budget.
These are important policies that will support the educator workforce, give children a strong start to life and enable families to provide for their children. We need your help to make this vision a reality. Please join us during legislative session to share your stories with your legislators about why YOU care about supporting educators, children, and families. Thank you for your advocacy and your leadership. Thank you for standing with us.