Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gov. Inslee announces budget priorities, including significant preschool funding increase

Gov. Jay Inslee today announced his budget priorities for the 2013-15 state operating budget, which included a proposed $35 million increase to funding for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds to attend preschool.

The Department of Early Learning's Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) currently offers high-quality preschool to about 8,400 children from low-income or otherwise vulnerable families. ECEAP includes at least 320 hours of preschool per school year, as well as family support, nutrition and health services.

ECEAP is effective at:
• Increasing children’s social-emotional, physical and pre-academic skills.
• Strengthening families and building their capacity to support their children’s success.
• Ensuring that each child receives medical and dental care so they start school with optimal health.

Read more about the strong gains in school readiness made for children enrolled in ECEAP.

Gov. Inslee's proposal would expand ECEAP by 1,000 enrollment slots in school year 2013-14 and 2,035 slots in school year 2014-15. The proposal includes quality improvements including increased classroom hours, more training for ECEAP teachers and family support specialists, and support from DEL ECEAP specialists to local programs to help ensure consistent quality statewide.

"With this proposal, Gov. Inslee makes clear his strong support for getting our youngest learners school-ready," DEL Director Bette Hyde said. "ECEAP is a proven program that is an important component of our early learning system. If we want all children to enter kindergarten ready to succeed--no matter where they live or their family income--we must offer them high-quality early learning opportunities."

Legislation passed in 2010 makes ECEAP an entitlement program in school year 2018-19, when any eligible child will be able to enroll. In January 2012, there were nearly 4,000 children on waiting lists for ECEAP programs around the state.  

Gov. Inslee's proposal also includes funding for full-day kindergarten expansion and reducing kindergarten and first grade class sizes and early reading intervention.

Read more about Gov. Inslee's budget proposal here. The Senate will announce its budget proposal in the coming days, followed by a proposal from the House of Representatives. The 2013 Legislature is scheduled to adjourn April 28.

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