Investing in Washington State’s Littlest Learners

Ryan Murphy and his son, Liam.

Last week, the Washington state legislature made our littlest learners a top priority by passing a bill that will expand services for disadvantaged babies and toddlers across the Evergreen State. Governor Jay Inslee will soon sign the bill to create a new Early ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program) pilot, modeled after Early Head Start, which will ensure more low-income and marginalized children get the early interventions they need, such as hands on developmental activities and health screenings, to thrive in their first years of life.

We know that a child’s brain develops the fastest in the first three years of life, building crucial long-term development and understanding skills. Something I am currently witnessing with my 11-month-old son, who is demonstrating new fine motor, verbal and cognitive skills every week.

Just today, my little guy started saying “ba-ba” for “bottle” and is actively trying to pull himself up, a critical step toward walking. With every milestone, I am filled with pride and joy, yet I know many of my son’s future friends and classmates are not as lucky.

Risk factors like poverty, child maltreatment, single parenting and low maternal education level have a cumulative impact. When children have 6 to 7 of these type of risk factors, there is more than a 90% chance of developmental delays.

It’s also crucial that every child feels safe, loved and encouraged to learn during this time of development. That is why is it so exciting to see that Washington state legislature building off of ECEAP, a highly successful early learning program that for the last 34 years has prepared 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families for success in school and in life. Today, ECEAP has proven to be one of the highest quality pre-K programs in the country. Now it will be expanded to close the gap in high-quality services for children ages zero to three.

SCAN volunteers at Washington’s Strolling Thunder rally.

I am thankful for SCAN’s contributions that helped lead to this victory. During this legislative session, our advocates sent more than 1,200 emails to lawmakers, published letters to the editor, gathered in Olympia as part of the Strolling Thunder rally, met with lawmakers both in-district and at the capital, and testified before the state senate.

While we are celebrating this positive step forward, I am eagerly preparing for the work ahead. We still need to secure state, federal and/or private funds to implement Early ECEAP.

During the interim, SCAN will continue to educate and motivate lawmakers to allocate the necessary funding for Early ECEAP and other important early learning programs during the 2020 legislative session and beyond.

We have a lot of work next year. Help us to encourage our Washington State Lawmakers to continue to make kids a priority by sending them a quick thank you message.

Not in Washington State? No problem! Learn how you can help advocate for early learners all across the U.S.