Taking place amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 legislative session was like no other. While conducting the session remotely presented many challenges, it also made participation in the legislative process more accessible than ever before. Advocates from across the state were able to make their voices heard by signing in to support bills or testifying directly from their homes.
And all that hard work and virtual advocacy paid off! Parents, community leaders and policymakers came together and made historic progress that will help to give all of Washington’s children a great start.
The bipartisan passage of the Fair Start for Kids Act (SB 5237) represents the largest investment in early learning in state history. This legislation takes a comprehensive approach to affordability and access to early learning, with dramatic new investments in Working Connections Child Care, ECEAP, home visiting and other programs of support for families with young children. Designed to promote equity, the act creates additional supports for culturally and linguistically diverse early learning.
“The Fair Start for Kids Act is a badly needed down payment on the promise of a better future for Washington’s children and their families. The Legislature listened to the needs of those most affected by underinvestment in the field of early education, and approved measures that improve both quality and access. Our work to assure that it is well implemented is just beginning, as is our continued advocacy in all the areas that were neglected. We won’t rest until every child gets the great start that they deserve.”
-- Dr. Stephan Blanford, executive director of Children’s Alliance
Health Care for Kids and Families
The final state budget included funds to establish the Dental Therapy Task Force which will convene key stakeholders to offer recommendations on bringing the current practice of dental therapy on tribal lands to a statewide scale by examining best practices, reviewing data-driven evidence, and reporting their findings to the legislature by the end of 2021.
While dental therapists are currently working or authorized in 12 states, they are only allowed to work in tribal settings in Washington state, which limits their reach here.
“The establishment of the Dental Therapy Task Force is a win for health equity! For the past ten years, Washingtonians from BIPOC and middle and low-income households have been urging lawmakers to authorize dental therapists so they can have access to these community-based, trusted, and effective providers. The legislature has finally made a tangible step towards this reality with this development.”
-- Litonya Lester, health policy director, Children’s Alliance
Revenue to Invest in Kids
The legislature took a huge step forward in balancing our upside-down tax code by passing a capital gains tax on extraordinary profits. Revenue from this tax on Washington's highest earners will go towards funding the Fair Start for Kids Act and other services that give ALL kids a great start in life.
“The passage of a capital gains tax marks a historic victory for legislative champions, advocates, and everyday Washingtonians. This victory has been 13 years in the making and arrives thanks to countless contributions form organizations and individuals over the years. We are finally asking the wealthiest to pay their share so we can invest in the future: our kids and communities.”
--Emily Parzybok, executive director of Balance Our Tax Code Coalition
Other Key Results for Kids:
- Working Families Tax Credit (HB 1297): With overwhelming bipartisan support, both chambers passed HB 1297, which will fund the Working Families Tax Credit and provide direct cash payments to low-income families who are unfairly impacted by our upside-down tax code.
- Grants for Early Learning Facilities (HB 1370): This bill will provide more aid to build great preschools and other early learning facilities.
- Extending Medicaid Post-Partum Coverage (SB 5068): The first year after birth is a crucial time for both babies and birthing people. Extending Apple Health coverage to 12 months after birth will increase access to essential postpartum care and improve disproportionate health outcomes for low-income families and families of color.