More Washington children will begin kindergarten prepared to succeed following passage of the Early Start Act, sponsored by Sen. Steve Litzow. The landmark bipartisan legislation, which was signed into law by the governor today, will provide parents with access to high quality early learning programs. It sets quality standards for early learning and provides support to early learning educators in childcare and pre-school settings across the state.
“High quality early learning is a proven means to give all children the foundation they need to be successful in school and compete in a 21st century job market and economy,” said Litzow, who serves as chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee and sponsored the Senate version of the bill. “As we make unprecedented investments in our education system as a whole – from early learning through higher education – success in early ages translates to success later on. Students who arrive in kindergarten ready to learn have more success throughout school and in life.”
A new two-year operating budget passed last week invests an additional $159 million in early learning and care — the largest early learning increase in state history — which includes an additional 1,600 slots in the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and funding to implement the Early Start Act.
“Research shows that children who receive high quality early learning are more likely to graduate high school with greater academic achievement,” said Litzow. “High quality early learning is a proven means of closing the opportunity gap just as low quality programs actually hurt development. The Early Start Act is all about quality.”
The Early Start Act puts the state’s quality rating and improvement system, Early Achievers, into law. The Early Achievers program implements quality standards and takes other steps to improve educational outcomes for the youngest learners. The program supports professional development and education for providers, and provides coaching to early learning educators. For the first time, parents will be able to get reliable information on the quality of early learning programs in their community.
This legislation uses the Early Achievers rating system for existing state offerings including Working Connections Child Care and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. That ensures the state only invests in programs that make a measurable difference for children.
“Parents, teachers, advocates, law enforcement, employers and others, all recognize the importance of having children who are prepared to compete in the 21st-century job market and participate in democracy,” continued Litzow.
Early Start will give more young children the opportunity to access the effective, high quality programs and policies that have made Washington state a nationally recognized leader in early learning. The Early Start Act programs and policies are guided by proven brain science and the positive long-term impact quality early learning has on a child’s school readiness, overall health and life.