A great deal of research on how and why some children fall behind during their K-12 years has focused on preschoolers – kids age 3 to 5. But studies have shown that warning signs of looming achievement gaps can start to surface much earlier in life. In one study that’s been generating a lot of buzz lately, researchers at Child Trends found that as early as 9 months of age, low-income kids and children of color – who are less likely to have access to high-quality early learning programs than higher-income white children – generally scored lower on certain cognitive skills and social-emotional development tests.
This year, the Children’s Alliance is urging lawmakers to pass two bills that would make early learning programs for infants and toddlers a higher priority in Washington state. Both bills – 2SHB 2867 and 3SHB 2687 – are on the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee’s agenda for a hearing Monday (Feb. 22) afternoon.
2SHB 2867 would ensure that, while the state builds and strengthens pre-kindergarten, it also makes high-quality early learning services for infants and toddlers a top priority. (The bill passed the house with bipartisan support on President’s Day.) If Washington follows the lead of other states such as Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, and develops a comprehensive network of resources focused on children from birth to age 3, more kids in our state will enter kindergarten ready to learn and more likely to succeed in school.
3SHB 2687 focuses on leveraging and growing public and private investments in home-visiting programs that give new parents training and resources that help them embrace their roles as their child's first and most important teachers. The early learning professionals and nurses who visit parents' homes give them tips about activities that nourish their child's development, help to identify developmental delays early, and help them better manage the stresses of parenthood. Home-visiting programs have been shown to lower the incidence of abuse and neglect, and to increase children's chances of succeeding in school.
Another important early learning bill lawmakers will hear about Monday is 2SHB 2731, which would add preschool for disadvantaged 3- and 4-year-olds to the state’s definition of basic education.
The Children’s Alliance and other early learning advocates are working hard to rally our troops and pack the hearing (1:30 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room 1 in the Cherburg Building on the Capitol campus). Show your support by attending the hearing, signing in favor of the bills, testifying or by urging your lawmakers to vote for them.
Visit our website to learn more about the Children’s Alliance’s early learning priorities.
Read more about the June 2009 study by Child Trends, a nonpartisan research center that studies children at all stages of development.
– Liz Gillespie