Washington Takes an Important Step toward Increased Opportunity

The Washington Legislature wrapped up its second special session last week by passing a biennial budget that creates more opportunity for our state’s youngest learners. In a time of financial struggle, lawmakers chose to prioritize funding for improved access and quality in early learning programs.

The budget marks an important step toward the legislature’s commitment to fully implement Washington’s PreK program, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), so that it’s available to all eligible children by 2018. A $22.4 million expansion means that 1,700 additional slots will be added in the biennium and, in the 2014-2015 school year, per child reimbursement rates for all ECEAP slots will be increased from $6,812 to $7,500—a key investment in preserving quality.  

The budget also includes $14.8 million for a modest 2 percent increase in child care subsidy reimbursement rates and an additional 2 percent enhancement for providers who achieve Level 2 or above in Washington’s Quality Rating and Improvement System, Early Achievers. Lawmakers also passed a key policy bill, Senate Bill 5595, reforming the child care system by making it easier to navigate for families and early learning providers.

Importantly, lawmakers recognized the need to serve infants and toddlers in two key ways. The Legislature dedicated an additional $1 million to expand home visiting services and passed House Bill 1723 which creates a continuum of high-quality early learning opportunities referred to as Early Start.

These are hard won victories that move us closer to closing the opportunity gap in Washington. Persistent advocacy and strong leadership have made these and other victories possible and pave the way for future change.

Thanks to our guest bloggers from our partners at the Children’s Alliance in Washington State (July 10, 2013)