Opinion: Investments in Early Education and the Brilliance of Each Child Matter

by Sen. Rebecca Saldaña and Rep. Debra Entenman

This legislative session, the Washington State House and Senate have introduced proposals that advance early care and education for children from birth through age five. We support these policies because we know first-hand the lasting power of quality education and care in a child’s earliest years.

As children, we both had the opportunity to access pre-school experiences that broadened our worlds and prepared us to take the next steps in our academic, professional and personal journeys. Our stories are different, but both underscore the powerful impact that early care and education has on children.

Both of our experiences led to a lifelong love of the arts, built our self-confidence and connections in our communities, and prepared us to access all of the opportunities to learn and grow in school. These earliest memories also inspired our choice to co-sponsor bills this Legislative session that advance access to early childcare and education for Washington children and families.

As the Legislative Session begins to wrap up, the House and Senate are both considering more robust access to our state’s quality childcare, pre-school, and family support programs for hard working Washington families who may want to access those services. We stand strong in support of these efforts.

Those early learning opportunities make a lifetime difference for babies and toddlers. Birth to age five is a foundational time for building critical social, emotional, and learning skills needed for future success. Kids with access to quality early care and education are better prepared for kindergarten, they read earlier, graduate high school at higher rates, and go to college more often. They have better-developed life skills like motivation, self- discipline, focus, and confidence. Investing in early learning is a fundamental difference-maker to set kids up for success throughout school and their careers.

Unfortunately, a lot of families struggle to find and afford quality early childcare and learning services. According to new research from the Association of Washington Businesses, nearly half of all Washington parents have a hard time finding, keeping, and affording quality early care and education for their young children. More than a quarter of them quit their jobs or leave school because they can’t find or afford childcare. Another 9% are fired for missing work or being late due to childcare issues, compounding the financial constraints so many families feel.

Children are being left out of opportunities to access the great programs that help them thrive in school and in life. Investing in quality early care and education will make sure that many of our state’s kids don’t miss out on critical development opportunities just because of the cost. Making the cost of quality preschool and childcare affordable to hardworking families means children have important consistency in care and learning that positively develop those key social, emotional and academic skills they need for the future.

Investments in our children also make good economic sense. By giving babies and toddlers what they need for healthy development, we avoid much more expensive and less effective interventions and expenditures later in life. In the most recent report from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, the non-partisan research arm of the Washington State Legislature, programs supported through our legislation provide a return on investment from $2.42 to $4.33 per dollar invested.

We know from personal experience, that access to quality care and education expands children’s worlds and prepares them to move confidently through school and life. We know from our positions now, that early learning in culturally relevant, supportive, and quality environments advances a child’s opportunities and experiences years, even decades later. That’s why we support these important foundational investments in early childcare and education — and the brilliance of each child and their families.

Representative Debra Entenman serves Washington’s 47th district in the State House of Representatives

Senator Rebecca Saldaña serves Washington’s 37th district in the State Senate

Featured image is a attributed to bluesbby under a creative commons license