By Christianna Clinton / For The Herald
Parents, I have a question for you. How many folks with young children do you know who can’t afford, can’t find, or don’t qualify for child care? Here’s my answer: Way too many. The truth is, child care is out of reach or inaccessible for thousands of families.
It took a pandemic for folks outside the child care and public school systems to realize just how important these supports are for children, families and even employers. In 2020, many businesses temporarily closed or significantly reduced their operating hours. In turn, many child care providers shut their doors because parents who relied on them lost their jobs. We know now how critical child care is to our economy as well as how important it is for child development and socialization.
With new investments in early learning and child care, working parents can go back to their jobs while their kids have a safe place to learn, grow and get ready to start school. This makes sense for everyone. Investments in kids pay off, literally. Every dollar invested in early learning and education is repaid seven times.
I’ve seen that return-on many times in my own work as a parent ambassador for ECEAP, the state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. Part of my job is to make sure parents don’t fall through the cracks, to help them connect with resources when they do, and to teach them how to advocate for themselves and their children.
When my daughter was 11-months-old, I needed help finding subsidized child care for her. I also needed help for myself. A preschool staff member shared a list of landlords that offered low-income housing. She helped me create a budget for my family and got me started in a parenting class. I learned interviewing skills, which led to a job and then stable housing. Now I work in the same role, connecting other parents to the help they need. The first step is always enrolling their children in affordable, enriching child care.
Parent ambassadors also help parents get their voices back through advocacy before the state Legislature in Olympia. We stand up and ask for what our kids need, sharing our stories and asking lawmakers to support funding for early learning and education. When our children hear us using our voices, they learn how to use theirs and to stand up for themselves.
I believe every child deserves a quality positive early learning experience. That’s why I advocated for the capital gains tax in legislative hearings. You might wonder what the state’s capital gains tax has to do with early childhood education and support for public schools. Revenue from the new capital gains tax, passed in 2021, will fund the Education Legacy Trust Fund, which in turn will invest millions of dollars in K-12 schools, early childhood education and child care opportunities in towns and cities across the state. The new funding — $500 million per year — will mean more kids can enroll in child care programs, we can hire more teachers for preschool programs and our public schools will receive more funding.
Right now, working folks like me are contributing more than our share in state and local taxes. It means we’re paying more for the services that benefit everyone, like schools, roads, mass transit, health care, senior services and other programs. And we’re feeling the most impact when it comes to taxes.
That’s because Washington has the most unfair upside-down tax code in the country. What it means for low-income folks like me is that we pay up to 17 percent of our income in state and local taxes. Meanwhile, the richest people here pay just 3 percent. It’s unjust that folks like me who can least afford it pay more than our share in taxes while those with the most don’t pay close to what they truly owe.
The capital gains tax is an important first step to fixing our tax code by making sure the wealthy pay what they owe. But you can bet there’s more work to do. When I go to Olympia during the next legislative session, I’ll be asking lawmakers to keep looking for other ways to make it more fair.
When we go all in for all of us together, we can make sure the wealthiest Washingtonians and large corporations pay what they truly owe through taxes so we can fully fund our schools, ensure quality health care for anyone who needs it, and provide stability for our families.
Christianna Clinton is a parent ambassador for her local Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. She lives in Everett.