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March 12, 2013 at 9:22 AM

Getting the Legislature to move on early learning by expanding preK

Students at the Refugee and Immigrant Family Center in Seattle.

Preschool students at the Refugee and Immigrant Family Center in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

The Washington State Association of Head Start & ECEAP is meeting in Olympia this week to talk about everything from preschool bills in the Legislature to predatory lending practices impact on the low-income families served by Head Start.

I’ll be giving the keynote address Tuesday at noon. Here’s a taste of my speech:

If you believe, as I do, that education is one of the best public investments we can make, you can’t help but be excited by the hope and opportunities resonating from the White House to the state House.

Washington state has a lot going on:

It had one of the first and still one of the few Departments of Early Learning.

Washington won a Race to the Top grant and is using the $60 millon to improve teacher quality in preschools and child care centers.

Washington launched a home visiting program. It doesn’t reach as many homes as needed but its an important start. A powerful model is the City of Seattle’s program where nurses work with vulnerable moms for two years.

Thanks to the dogged lobbying of Rep. Ruth Kagi,  Washington last fall became one of only nine states approved for a waiver from federal rules restricting child welfare reimbursements to only children in foster care. Washington had been getting dinged for being on the cutting edge of efforts to keep children in the home and use wrap around social services to address child neglect and other problems in the home.

And you did all of this while much of the policy-making world was fixated on the K-12 system. Give yourselves a moment to take it all in. And now let’s talk about where efforts should go next.

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