Research shows that high-quality early learning reaps tremendous rewards in increasing the quality of life for children, families and communities. Children who have access to high-quality early learning programs are 29% more likely to graduate from high school, 50% less likely to require special education, 50% less likely to become teen parents and 70% less likely to be arrested for a violent crime before the age of 18. In addition, children who benefit from high-quality care earn, on average, 33% more than children who don’t.

Many eligible children don’t attend preschool

 Despite a strong body of research and general support among policymakers, early learning receives less than 1% of Washington’s state operating budget. When it comes to providing preschool opportunities for low income children, Clark County is among the most underserved in the state, with just 34% of eligible three- and four-year-olds receiving access to subsidized programs.

Thanks to statewide efforts to provide comprehensive services for children and families, more opportunities are on the horizon. The Washington state legislature has mandated funding by 2018-19 for comprehensive preschool for eligible three- and four-year-olds. Last fall the state’s family support services created space for 1,350 eligible children to attend preschool in our state and 108 of those are in Clark County.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Jodi Wall, Director of Child Care and Early Learning at ESD 112. “State agencies are supporting increased early learning opportunities. Wall said the next challenge is finding physical space to serve these students. ESD 112 recently purchased the former Hough pool property. It’s being remodeled into an early learning center. Watch for additional details about a fall grand opening!

Parents take a leadership role in early education

In addition to providing preschool and child care for young children, parent education and involvement is critical to a child’s success.

In one example, parents are empowered as early learning leaders by participating in the Early Head Start and ECEAP Policy Council, where they meet monthly to offer input on those program’s policies and procedures and discuss early learning topics. Their kids like the opportunity to “attend” Policy Council too! They engage in fun learning activities in an adjoining room.