In Washington, 6,461 children under the age of three are enrolled in Early Head Start programs, and 5,042 3-year olds and 8,775 4-year olds are enrolled in Head Start programs. Additionally, 8 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds and 1 percent of state’s 3-year olds are enrolled in a state funded preschool program. The Washington Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is the state’s program that targets 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families and is run through education service districts, local governments, public school districts, community colleges and nonprofits. The average annual cost of center-based infant care in the state is $12,108.
- What the Governor is saying: In Gov. Jay Inslee’s 2014 State of the State Address, he focused on improving funding to early childhood education programs by asking for a proposed $4 million for early childhood education programs. And in late March, Gov. Inslee signed Executive Order 14-03, which established a state interagency coordinating council for infants and toddlers with disabilities and it will work with state departments to implement an early intervention system.
- What’s happening in the Legislature: There have been several pieces of state legislation in Washington’s House and Senate that target early childhood learning efforts. The Washington H.B. 1723 establishes an early start program which will be an integrated high-quality continuum of early learning programs for children from birth to age five. And in an effort to keep the quality of preschool programs high, Washington H.B. 1723 requires that by fiscal year 2015, Washington State preschool programs receiving state funds enroll in the state’s voluntary QRIS system and maintain a minimum score level.
- Funding increases and additional support: The state’s loss of its Elementary and Secondary Education Act waiver means there are new restrictions on how schools can spend $40 million in federal dollars each year, and programs previously funded through the waiver — such as 10 preschool programs in Tacoma school district serving roughly 200 children — will have to find new funding sources. On the positive news front, state legislators have passed the FY15 supplemental budget, which included nearly $25 million in new funding for early learning. The biggest winners in this increase are the $16.6 million in funding for a 4 percent base subsidy rate increase in both 2014 and 2015 for home- and center-based child care providers serving children with child care subsidies; authorization to use unspent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to support vulnerable families with home visiting services through the Home Visiting Services Account; and an additional $50,000 for Reach Out and Read, a program that partners with doctors to provide books to young children and encourage parents to read with them. Meanwhile in Seattle, Mayor Ed Murray unveiled a plan to offer free, universal preschool in the city that would be funded through a four-year, $58 million property tax levy. If approved by the Seattle City Council, the initiative will be placed on the November ballot.