Good News from The Other Washington!

January 30, 2024

Yes, you did read that correctly. Last month, Million Shiferaw, our Director of Child Development and I attended the National Head Start Association Winter Leadership Conference. We were able to visit with both Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell, both of whom fully support Head Start and the important work we do in our community. We also met with staff of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith who were also very supportive.

Our first presenter at the conference, Dan Wuori shared how across the US, states are increasingly investing more into early learning. Wuori is the Founder and President of Early Childhood Policy Solutions, a bipartisan public policy consultancy centered on the needs of young children, their families and the professionals who serve them. He was “preaching to the choir” when he stated the obvious – if we don’t pay teachers a livable wage, we won’t have programs for any children.

More and more, policy makers are realizing this – as shown in the latest Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by the Office of Head Start that calls for improved benefits and pay parity with public school teachers.

Wuori gave several examples of how both red and blue states are investing in early learning.

  • More and more states, including Washington, are moving away from the flawed market study to establish child care subsidy rates to the true cost of care as a more accurate measure.
  • According to K12Dive, in 2022, New Mexico voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to make pre-K a constitutional right — the first state to do so. The legislation created a permanent revenue source for early childhood education, including child care, as well as instructional supports for at-risk students and for extending the school year.

In a July 2023 poll, the First Five Years Fund found the vast majority of voters nationwide believe it is important for working parents of young children to be able to find and afford quality child care programs. A full 93% of voters believe this is important, with 63% saying it is extremely important. The overall sentiment cuts across party lines, with 90% of Republicans, 93% of Independents, and 96% of Democrats saying finding quality child care programs for children or working parents is important.

So as the partisan battles continue over keeping the government open, know that voters and policy makers across the political spectrum are finally recognizing the importance of the earliest years and early learning professionals that make these programs possible.