Thursday, May 12, 2016

WA Makes Gains in Pre-K Funding and Enrollment

Many 3- and 4-year olds across the nation still lack access to high-quality preschool education despite modest gains in enrollment, quality, and funding, according to an annual report by the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University.

In Washington, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) enrolled 10,091 children, up 1350 in 2014-2015, serving eight percent of the state’s 4-year-olds. Washington maintained consistent progress in terms of quality standards– meeting nine of NIEER’s minimum quality standards benchmarks. As of 2014-2015, ECEAP was required to participate in the state’ quality rating and improvement system, called Early Achievers. In 2014-2105, the state invested a total of $83 million in ECEAP, with approximately $76 million of these funds coming from state dollars from the state general fund and the “opportunity pathways account,” which is derived from lottery revenue.
“NIEER’s findings support our need for more high-quality programs and importantly, the inclusion of full-day models into our early learning settings,” said Department of Early Learning Director, Ross Hunter. “As we near our state’s milestone of making preschool an entitlement for low-income families, we need to ensure expansion of programs that prove success in child outcomes.”
More about ECEAP:
  • 60% of ECEAP children are ready the spring before entering Kindergarten.
  • There are 11,955 children eligible for ECEAP who are not served by ECEAP or Head Start. According to the February 2016 Caseload Forecast Council, 6,260 of these would likely participate if space were available. 
  • By fall 2020’s entitlement milestone*, Washington will need 7,377 more slots for children than Washington currently has, based on the children likely to participate. 
    • This requires adding 1,844 more slots each year for the next four years, beginning with the 2017-18 school years. 
    Inside an ECEAP classroom.
  • To add the 7,377 by fall 2020, Washington will need 266 more classrooms, 266 more trained lead teachers, and 266 more assistant teachers.
*The Legislature has made preschool a statutory entitlement for families with incomes at or below 110% of federal poverty level, or FPL, by fall 2020.

The State of Preschool report for the 2014-2015 school year, which includes objective state-by-state profiles and rankings, indicates that urgent action is needed from lawmakers at all levels of government to ensure that every child – particularly those from low-income families – have access to high-quality early education. For the first year, NIEER also analyzed states’ early education workforce and Dual Language Learner policies, which reveal that Washington is one of 14 states that can report the home language of every pre-K student. However, Washington does not require pre-K teachers to have a Bachelor’s degree, nor does it provide salary parity between pre-K and K-3 teachers.

The report finds that total state spending on pre-K programs for the nation as a whole increased by 10 percent, or $553 million, since the previous year, bringing state spending in 2014-2015 to over $6.2 billion. The number of children served by state-funded pre-K served increased by 37,167 in 2014-2015, bringing the total to almost 1.4 million children – the largest number of children ever served by state-funded pre-K. With an average rate of $4,489, states also made one of the most significant increases in spending per child in recent history.

For more information on The State of Preschool 2015 yearbook and detailed state-by-state breakdowns on quality benchmarks, enrollment, and funding, please click here.

More about DEL and NIEER:The Department of Early Learning was created in 2006 to help all Washington children reach their full potential. DEL oversees the state-funded preschool program, child care licensing and subsidies, early intervention services, and other initiatives and programs to support parents as children’s first and most important teachers. For more information, go to

The National Institute for Early Education Research ( at the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy and practice through independent, objective research.

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