Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Historic Early Start Act Passes: Governor Inslee's Speech

For those of you that missed the signing in Olympia, Governor Inslee gave an inspirational speech regarding the passing of the historic Early Start Act. Here are the remarks made yesterday:

More than 48,000 children in Washington will benefit from access to quality early learning thanks to historic new levels of early learning funding. Gov. Jay Inslee today signed the Early Start Act which helps expand and strengthen the state’s early learning programs and continues efforts to improve the quality of these programs. The governor’s remarks are below and photos are available online here. He was joined by Senator Steve Litzow, State Rep. Ruth Kagi, and numerous other legislators, supporters and more than a dozen of Washington’s youngest learners.

Governor Inslee signs the Early Start Act on July 6, 2015
“This landmark legislation will help ensure that 48,200 children like those here with us today will get the best start on their path to a world class education. In Washington, we have what I like to call a ‘continuum of education.’ And it starts here, with our youngest learners, and extends right on through college. I’ll be signing a bill later today to make that last step more affordable for students and their families.

“Today, we invest in a big way in the future of our youngest Washingtonians. Research soundly proves that early childhood education gives our kids a solid foundation for future learning and for life. We know that early learning programs help improve children’s health and boost kindergarten readiness. We know that because scientists at the University of Washington’s I-Labs tell us that children’s minds have a tremendous capacity for learning — by the age of 2, the human brain is almost 80 percent of adult size.

“This bill invests an additional $94.5 million for the Early Start Act alone as part of a total early learning budget of $158 million. Here are the just a couple of the many benefits of this bill:

First, it maintains Early Achievers, our state’s quality rating and improvement system, and makes it the quality standard for all our state’s early learning programs. This way, Washington will continue its unwavering commitment to educating and training our child care and preschool providers in effective early learning strategies so children in ECEAP and Working Connections are prepared for kindergarten. By making Early Achievers mandatory, we’re not just raising the quality of care — we’re also funding the professional development of providers through scholarships, training and technical assistance. This will help ensure that providers are culturally responsive and that they mirror the diversity of the children they serve.

“I have heard concerns from providers and parents about the mandatory requirements of the bill, which have the potential to reduce the number of licensed child care providers in the state. I share those worries — and we will do what we can to make sure it doesn’t happen. That is why I am directing my staff to work to preserve our wonderful child care and early learning facilities and to take the steps necessary to ensure that we are growing the licensed care in our state, not shrinking it.

This bill also ensures that when a young student participates in Working Connections Child Care — the state’s subsidized child care program for low-income and working families that now serves 31,000 children— that they get that benefit for a full 12 months. This allows children to develop and strengthen bonds with their caregivers, which brain science tells us is critical to healthy child development.

“I thank the bipartisan group of members who have shown outstanding leadership on this bill. Rep. Ruth Kagi has long been a champion for children and for early learning in particular. She has been instrumental in moving our state forward as the national leader in early learning. Sen. Steve Litzow was his chamber’s sponsor of the bill. I also recognize Rep. Walsh and Sen. Billig who have co-sponsored it over the past few sessions. And I appreciate the hard work of the budget team, Sens. Hill and Hargrove, and Reps. Hunter and Chandler.

“In addition to legislative support, a number of organizations have contributed to this effort — Thrive, Children’s Alliance, Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP, the League of Education Voters, SEIU 925, Fight Crime and Invest in Kids, and other members of the Early Learning Action Alliance.

“I also recognize my wife, Trudi, who has long supported early learning programs, and continues to advocate on behalf of all Washington’s children.”

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