In this edition, a longtime dental hygienist says Washington state needs a new type of licensed dental provider to extend care when and where it’s needed. In other state news, the Marriage Equality Bill passes the Senate, advocates show that the Quality Early Learning Act of 2012 means quality education can reach as many of Washington’s three- and-four-year-olds as possible. In national media, a new report says 48 percent of students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch eat breakfast at school.
Despite the best efforts of hard-working dental professionals, too many Washingtonians – including those who are elderly, low-income, have special needs or live in rural areas – are not getting the dental care they need when they need it. …Our dental care system is failing these folks, and it needs to be brought up to date. We should take a cue from the medical care system, where nurse practitioners and physician assistants have expanded and improved the availability of health care across the entire population, particularly for the elderly, low-income families and people in rural areas. We can do something similar for dental care, by adding a new kind of mid-level provider to the dental care team called a licensed dental professional (LDP) and creating a training track for dental hygienists like me to become LDPs.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing demographic in Washington state yet they are hugely underrepresented in local elected offices. This raises questions about equal opportunity guaranteed in the federal Voting Rights Act. It also garnered the attention of some state lawmakers who have proposed bills that would allow voters to challenge local elections where qualified minority candidates are shut out. Successful challenges may spur a judge to compel a shift from at-large voting — where a city elects its officials across the city — to a district-based format that draws lines to increase minority voter influence. This is a solid avenue for voter redress. It broadens a conversation about political representation hastened by stark numbers. In 10 counties across Central Washington, Latinos make up more than 33 percent of the total population, yet they hold fewer than 4 percent of the local elected offices.
On Tuesday, the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee approved legislation that would phase in universal preschool by school year 2024-25. But, in the Senate a similar bill remains in the Early Learning and K-12 Committee, according to an advocate who is following the legislation. Time is running out because legislation must move out of committee by this Friday. Overall, the Washington legislature could make progress on key early learning issues this session, including developing a preschool system, despite the weak economy that has created another large budget deficit. Legislators already set a funding floor for one of Washington’s biggest early learning programs, its public preschool program, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), at 2009-2011 levels, according to Leslie Dozono, Early Learning Policy Director at the Seattle-based Children’s Alliance.
From birth to age 5, children go through growth that profoundly influences the course of their lives. Long before they reach kindergarten, children build the fundamental brain architecture that will help them get along in the world. This is why we, along with our partners at the Early Learning Action Alliance are supporting House Bill 2448 and its companion in the Senate, SB 6449. These bills will establish voluntary preschool program for 3- and 4- year olds in Washington, with concurrent targeted focus on birth to three programs. Below is a Q&A that can help understand what is, and what is not, in the bill.
A bill that requires the state to pass the K-12 education budget before all other budgets found support at a House committee hearing this week, but educators and parents worry the state does not have enough money to adequately fund education. House Bill 2533, also called Fund Education First, tells lawmakers when to discuss education funding, not how -- or how much -- to fund education. Jennifer Estroff, government relations director for the Children's Alliance, testified that focusing too much on education may divert funds from basic-needs programs for children, such as food assistance. "A hungry child can't learn," she said.
The bill passed with 28 yes votes and 21 no votes, with four Republicans voting in support of the bill. Dozens of people watching in the gallery erupted into cheers and applause after the vote on the bill, which passed with seven amendments. The House will likely take the up the issue early next week.
State assistance plays an essential role | The Herald (Everett) | 01-07-2012h
According to the 2010 Hungry in Washington Report released by the Children’s Alliance, one in seven households (14.7 percent) in our state struggled to put enough food on the table — the highest rate since the U.S. Department of Agriculture began recording this figure in 1995. As an organization committed to fighting hunger, we are extremely disappointed with the proposal to eliminate the State Food Assistance Program, a state-run food stamp program for legal immigrants and refugees. Local food banks and meal programs are already stretched beyond capacity as they have seen visits increasing and donations decreasing due to the recession. The charitable hunger response system alone cannot adequately provide for the increased numbers of people in need we will see from the elimination of State Food Assistance.
Childhood poverty does not just mean a family of four makes below $23,050 a year (it's estimated that a family needs over twice that income to actually meet basic needs). No, childhood poverty limits access to the simplest, most basic things such as healthy foods, books, the Internet, and a secure place to play, exercise, or even sleep. It means poor children, nearly half of whom are overweight, grow up with worse health. It means at the age of four, poor children are already 18 months behind developmentally. It means without early education programs, poorer children struggle and are 25% more likely to drop out of high school. It means they are more likely to become teen parents, commit a violent crime, and be unemployed as adults.
Nationally, about 48 percent of students who qualify for a free or reduced lunch are eating a free breakfast at school, according to the report. The Food Research and Action Center says an achievable goal in large, urban districts would be reaching at least 70 percent of those students.