2021 Legislative Agenda
Ensure that Every Child Can Thrive
Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive in school and life, regardless of race, ethnicity, home language, zip code, ability, or family income. Yet too few children in our state have access to the opportunities they need to thrive. This is especially true for Black, Indigenous and children of color. To maintain strong families and rebuild our economy, lawmakers should invest in early learning as a foundational response to COVID-19, and strengthen approaches that address racial disparities in the first five years.
Raise Revenue to Invest in Kids
To build necessary investments in our system, lawmakers should create progressive state revenue streams that provide robust, stable, and necessary funding and do not supplant existing state nor federal early learning funding.
Help Families Afford the High Cost of Quality Child Care
Strengthen Working Connections Child Care (WCCC). WCCC helps tens of thousands of Washington families connect their kids with trained and experienced caregivers so parents can work, needed now more than ever. Lawmakers should:
- Maintain provider reimbursement rates created in the 2020 state budget, which expanded access for families
- Permanently remove barriers to access (e.g., parent-student status, care for homeless families)
- Continue to provide families with copay relief and address affordability, including family eligibility with temporary changes in income (due to unemployment benefits or essential worker hazard pay)
- Support Family, Friend & Neighbor caregivers, a preferred form of care for many families
Support the Early Care & Education Workforce
Stabilize and strengthen our early learning system - it cannot recover on its own and without it, Washington’s families and businesses cannot get back to work. Investing now builds back our child care system even stronger. Lawmakers should support the dedicated professionals who care for Washington’s next generation and:
- Maintain 2020 investments in Early Achievers and current student scholarships to increase the workforce
- Direct additional financial relief to avoid/address business closures and support PPE/COVID responses as needed
- Work to expand provider access to health care coverage
Assure Ongoing, Direct Support to Families Through Home Visiting
- Lawmakers should maintain funding for voluntary, long-term home visiting services, so families have the resources, information, and services to support their children’s overall development.
Keep Strong Preschool Supports in Place
Lawmakers should maintain 2020 investment levels in the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program: quality pre-K that fights poverty with a two-generation approach.
Expand Access to Quality Early Learning Through Longer-Term Investments & Strategies
Lawmakers must increase family access to quality early learning programs, including more care options for infants and toddlers, expand care options and early learning supports across the state and address child care deserts, particularly in rural areas, expand dual language learning, invest in culturally relevant and responsive care. Legislators must reflect the ‘true cost of quality’ in provider reimbursements, compensation, family eligibility, and affordability. Oversight should be driven by early learning experts including families and providers, backed by disaggregated data by race and ethnicity, and reflect recommendations from the Child Care Collaborative Task Force and reports on workforce compensation.
Creating and Strengthening Early Learning Capital Facilities
- Invest $40M for the Early Learning Facilities (ELF) and WA Early Learning Loan (WELL) Funds and critical technical project assistance. Washington’s early learners need equitable access to classrooms and space for preschool and childcare programs. Leveraging local and private funds, investing in facilities helps economic recovery in WA in two ways: Creating jobs for capital projects and ensuring future early learning space for children and working parents.
ELAA Support Agenda
In addition to our primary legislative agenda items, ELAA also endorses these policies as important for children and families.
Support Early Learners by Supporting Their Families to be Economically Successful
- Expand and modernize the WA Working Families Tax Credit to promote early childhood development, lift kids and families out of poverty and promote kids’ long-term educational success. Research shows that children in families with the earned income tax credit are healthier, are better supported as their families are lifted out of poverty and have better short and long-term educational outcomes. The state’s current match to the Federal program is 10%, this boost would increase the state’s match to 15%, increasing support for working families to help assure their successful economic recovery and their children’s development and resiliency.
Build Robust Support for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health
- Preserve current state investment in infant and early childhood mental health consultation (IECMH-C). BIPOC children, especially Black boys, dual language learners, and children with disabilities experience disproportionately high levels of suspension and expulsion from early learning programs. Young children who live in families dealing with parental loss, substance abuse, mental illness, or exposure to trauma are at heightened risk of developing infant/early childhood mental health disorders. Research shows IECMH-C improves children’s social-emotional wellbeing and reduces the likelihood of expulsion. The IECMH-C situated at Child Care Aware is funded at $773,000/year. Maintaining this investment is critical to supporting equity in early learning outcomes.
Continue ‘Help Me Grow Pierce County’ Prevention Pilot
- Continue Help Me Grow Pierce County (HMG PC) pilot by continuing the state’s investment at $1.74 million. HMG PC is a community-driven, resource and referral linkage system that connects young children and their families to appropriate services and community support, now in year 2 of implementation, and serves about 1,000 children ages 0 to 5 and expectant families per month. The pilot seeks to ensure that all families in Pierce County have the resources they need to thrive, with a goal outcome of preventing child welfare involvement.