Early learning critical for all

Although I don’t lay claim to being an expert, I do follow closely what is going on in education, particularly the recent proposal to increase graduation rates (Jan. 30 article, “Bill would have low scoring students repeat third grade.”) Our jails and prisons are full of individuals who did not graduate from high school. And research confirms what I have observed firsthand: high school dropouts are more than eight times likely to be incarcerated than kids who do graduate.

Since our legislators are looking for solutions to the dropout crisis, I have a suggestion for them: fully fund high-quality early learning programs. The continuing achievement gap that our schools and policy-makers work so hard to close is largely the result of an opportunity gap that begins long before children enter school. Our state-funded preschool for low-income children — the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) — does an excellent job of closing the opportunity gap and preparing our youngest learners for kindergarten. Unfortunately, only 37 percent of eligible children are enrolled in ECEAP due to inadequate funding. I urge the Legislature to expand access to ECEAP so that every at-risk child has the opportunity to enter school with the skills they need to be successful throughout their academic career — including reading at grade-level each year — and graduating from high school.

John Lovick

Snohomish County Sheriff

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