Expanding early childhood education helps students later

The Legislature continues to grapple with McCleary. As a former legislator who represented the 21st District, I understand the challenge of balancing the budget while addressing the needs of K-12. As an employer, I know we need to do more in the early years because of the high return we’ll get on our “educational investment” in our youngest learners.

In Everett, only 36 percent of kindergartners enter school with math skills of a five-year-old. Yet we know that the number of Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) students in the 2015-16 school year who scored at or above age level in early math rose by 310 percent from the beginning to end of the school year. Additionally, ECEAP students maintain those gains through their elementary school years.

Research spotlighted by the business-leader group ReadyNation shows that early exposure to a high-quality preschool can not only improve educational outcomes like better graduation rates, but also bolster employability by laying the foundation for skills these students will need in the workplace.

Today, 14 percent of people ages 16 to 24 are neither in school nor employed. An unprepared workforce is costing the nation $3.7 billion annually in remedial education services and lost wages.

Let’s expand access to ECEAP so more than 60 percent of our three- and four-year olds can have access. Currently, more than 300 eligible preschoolers are not getting access in Everett. Increased access to ECEAP will help our youngest learners get the strong start in school that they’ll need to boost our workforce and succeed in life.

Renee Radcliff Sinclair

Olympia

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