It was a big day for news affecting Washington state families. The Washington state House of Representatives Wednesday approved Governor Jay Inslee’s bill to create a new state department called the Department of Children, Youth and Families with a bi-partisan 77-19 vote.
The proposal is built off the unanimous recommendations of experts and leaders convened by the governor last year in a bi-partisan Blue Ribbon Commission. In December, the governor outlined his plans to create the new department.
“We need to shift from a reactive approach to serving our children to an approach that is proactive and preventive. Restructuring how we serve at-risk youth and families into one department will help us do that. I’m pleased the House took a big step forward for the health and safety of the children of Washington, and I’m looking forward to the Senate passing this bill soon as well.”
Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, is the prime sponsor of the legislation in the House, HB 1661.
“Ten years ago, I helped to create the Department of Early Learning to focus on high quality early learning opportunities for young children so they can start kindergarten ready to succeed,” said Kagi, chair of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee. “We need to restructure our services to build upon this solid foundation. The Department of Children, Youth and Families will be a single, visible, accountable agency that will be responsible for improving outcomes for children and families.”
Seattle Preschool Expansion
Mayor Ed Murray, along with Councilmember Debora Juarez and the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), announced the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) will add 20 new classrooms for the 2017-2018 school year, bringing the total number of classrooms to 53. The program will serve more than 1,000, three- and four-year-old students. The new classrooms expand the geographic diversity of SPP by adding seven classrooms in North Seattle. Student applications for next school year are now being accepted.
“Expanding access to early education is the best way to improve long-term academic outcomes,” said Mayor Murray. “Study after study has shown preschool leads to success in K-12 with better grades, better test scores and higher graduation rates. Continuing the growth of the Seattle Preschool Program will allow us to serve more than 1,000 students all over Seattle and create a more equitable city, as the majority are students of color. It is this kind of support that will help build a long-term foundation for an equitable and sustainable city.”
Over the last decade, research has shown that investments in high-quality early learning lead to better academic results and lives for children and families. Early learning helps prepare children to enter school with the skills they need to succeed – and is one of the best ways to eliminate race-based disproportionalities in achievement, opportunities, and outcomes.
“We know from years of experience and countless studies that not all children enter kindergarten prepared to succeed in school,” said Dwane Chappelle, Director of the Department of Education and Early Learning. “It is unacceptable that income or race continue to predict success in school, which is why the Seattle Preschool Program’s continued expansion is so important. The new classrooms brought online this year will help give more children the early education leg up they deserve.”
In addition to new classrooms, the City and Seattle School District will partner to provide additional special education inclusion services within SPP classrooms at Seattle Public Schools. The Seattle School District currently provides support services to children who have been identified as having disabilities through half-day developmental preschool programs. Through this new partnership, more children will have access to full day preschool classes and the opportunity to learn and interact alongside typically developing peers. All SPP classrooms provide specialized services to children with identified disabilities, regardless of which site they attend.
“I am thrilled to announce the much-needed expansion of quality, affordable pre-K to additional locations across our city,” said District 5 Councilmember Debora Juarez. “This growth will be especially dramatic in District 5, where the number of City-run pre-K classrooms will quadruple next year. Bottom line: This program will now provide over 150 children in District 5 with the preparation they need to excel in elementary school and beyond. As Chair of the Parks, Seattle Center, Libraries and Waterfront Committee, I am particularly proud of the collaboration between Parks and DEEL that made this expansion possible.”
In this coming school year, DEEL will partner with the Seattle Parks Department on a community center initiative to offer additional spaces available for preschool providers. Through this partnership, the City has identified community centers with space for SPP classrooms including: Northgate Community Center, Carkeek Environment Learning Center, Yesler Community Center and Rainier Beach Community Center. The City plans to bring on five more community center spaces in 2018-19.
DEEL will also be launching a pilot to implement an SPP model especially designed to support Family Child Care (FCC) providers. FCCs are licensed child care programs that run out of a private family home and are an integral part of Seattle’s early education network.
Approved by voters in 2014, SPP is a universal preschool pilot currently serving more than 600 children. SPP programs receive funding from the City, intensive coaching and training for their teachers, and access to teacher education and facility improvement funds to offer high-quality early learning opportunities for Seattle’s four-year-olds and eligible three-year-olds.
Applications for the 2017-18 Seattle Preschool Program, which opened today, are available online at seattle.gov/seattlepreschoolprogram and SPP aims to meet its third-year enrollment goal of 1,000 students. Parents are also able to apply by calling 206-386-1050. Parents of all four-year-olds and income-eligible three-year-olds are encouraged to apply. SPP classrooms offer a variety of high-quality learning experiences all over Seattle, including several dual language programs and special education inclusive environments.