Washington state currently provides a number of high-quality early learning programs that prevent child abuse and neglect, and prepare children for kindergarten. Gov. Jay Inslee has made expansion of early learning an ongoing priority and worked with the Legislature to nearly double the number of children in early learning programs to more than 15,000 since 2013.
“The most important investment we can make is in our children,” Inslee said. We know that the benefits from early learning programs extend throughout a child’s life.”
For the 2019–21 biennium, Inslee is proposing $173 million to provide universal newborn screening assessments and home visiting services, expand and improve preschool opportunities, create a statewide referral system to connect families with early learning services and build more early learning facilities.
“I am proud that my budget invests in early learning services that will ensure that all children receive the support necessary to enter kindergarten prepared and well positioned for success in school and life,” Inslee said.
Today, Inslee traveled to Tacoma and Des Moines to meet with families and providers where they discussed how early learning programs benefit the youngest learners.
The round table discussion focused on two aspects of his early learning budget: universal home visiting and a statewide resource and referral system.
“The most important investment we can make is in our children,” Inslee said. “We know that the benefits from early learning programs extend throughout a child’s life.”
The governor’s budget includes funding to create and implement a universal home visiting program. If funded, all newborns would have access to voluntary services by a nurse. During these visits, families may need referrals to other services, which is why the governor included funding for an integrated statewide resource and referral system. During Thursday’s visit, the governor heard about a similar pilot program called Help Me Grow in Pierce County.
Rep. Laurie Jinkins said this is all about primary prevention.
“The ultimate goal of projects such as Help Me Grow is a community where all families have the resources and confidence to support their children’s healthy development, and no child is abused or neglected,” Jinkins said. “I’m excited by this work that will give every child born the best chance to grow up happy and healthy.”
In Des Moines, Inslee joined advocates and legislators on a tour of Children’s Home Society of Washington’s Highline Early Learning Center. The governor discussed his proposed budget investments and heard from families who have benefited from early learning programs.
Inslee’s proposed statewide comprehensive early learning initiative includes:
- Universal home visiting and universal newborn assessments
- A statewide early learning referral system
- Increasing rates for early learning providers and funding for quality improvements
- Set up a new affordable preschool program
- Provide capital funding for new early learning and preschool classrooms
Connie Ballmer, co-founder of Ballmer Group, said she’s grateful to Gov Inslee, First Lady Trudi Inslee and other elected officials who recognize the need to prioritize Washington’s youngest residents.
“We cannot address any of our most challenging social problems if we don’t go upstream and help our children get a stable start in their earliest years,” Ballmer said. “While private philanthropy can catalyze this work, government investment is absolutely essential to serve all kids throughout the state.”