Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Historic investments in early learning start soon. Here are three things to know

charlotte.linton 06/30/21

This July 1, kids and families across the state should begin to feel the effects of the Fair Start for Kids Act—the historic investment in early learning that state lawmakers passed during the 2021 legislative session.

First, child care providers who offer affordable care to working families through Working Connections Child Care will get a significant boost in support. The state’s hourly subsidy to child care providers paying for Working Connections will go up substantially. For details, see the tables linked on the right of this page.

These substantial increases are good for kids. Children learn in relationship with everyone in their lives—and when child care businesses earn enough to keep their doors open, they can offer stable, continuous care, deepening their relationships and enhancing their ability to nurture young minds.

Governor Inslee signing the Fair Start for Kids Act into law

Second, thousands more families will qualify for affordable child care, so more parents can work and our youngest kids can get quality settings in which to learn. Eligibility for Working Connections will rise to 60 percent of the state median income—that’s an annual income of nearly $52,000 for a family of three. Co-payments for participating families are waived until October 1.

Barriers to quality child care have become an acute problem for working families—especially for working mothers—during the pandemic. This expansion in quality care can’t come too soon.

Third, as of July 1, young children in child care statewide are getting more support for their social and emotional health. That’s because Fair Start for Kids expanded state funding to pair mental health professionals with child care educators and families. These professionals are proven to promote healthy social and emotional development, strengthen relationships among staff, children and families, reduce teacher stress, and decrease turnover. The goal: that more children feel safe, loved and understood by the team of people who cares for them.

All these positive changes are made possible by the state’s new capital gains tax on the extraordinary profits of ultra-wealthy households. Starting in 2023, the tax will add hundreds of millions of dollars to support public education, including quality early care and pre-K. The implementation of the Fair Start for Kids Act isn’t over yet; more changes, including expansions of quality pre-K via the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), are on their way in coming months. For now, this is a moment to celebrate—and to remember to watch carefully to ensure that the law is used to erase the barriers that all kids face to a bright and healthy future.