OLYMPIA – Yesterday, in a packed hearing room, Early Learning & Human Services Committee members heard testimony from countless supporters on HB 1491, The Early Start Act.
“Early learning has the highest return on investment of any education dollar spent,” said Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle, Chairwoman of the Early Learning & Human Services Committee and prime sponsor of the bill. “Estimates range from $4-$17 for every dollar invested. When children start school with the skills they need, they are prepared to succeed. If we want better education outcomes for our children, investing in early learning is the critical first step.”
The hearing drew a wide range of supporters of high quality preschool including, King County Executive Dow Constantine, Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett, Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan and retired Navy Admiral Eleanor Valentin, among many others.
Sheriff Burnett and Chief Strachan emphasized that the best investment we can make to improve public safety is high quality early learning.
“Seventy percent of prison inmates do not have a high school diploma,” said Chief Strachan. “And one of the few proven ways to increase graduation rates is high-quality early learning. It’s about doing the right thing, early on.”
The latest data on kindergarten readiness shows that nearly half of Washington’s children are not ready for kindergarten. The Early Start Act will support high-quality and culturally relevant early learning that, beginning at birth, helps close the opportunity gap by getting children to the kindergarten door on a more even playing field.
Rear Admiral Eleanor Valentin, a 31-year Navy Veteran, who, when she recently retired was the highest ranking woman of color in the Pentagon, spoke to the merits of the Early Start Act as it relates to National Security.
“Three-fourths of young adults aged 17-24 are unfit for military duty because they can’t pass the physical and mental tests required,” she said. “Early Start is part of a strategy that will allow our children to succeed, whether they choose to join the military or pursue civilian careers. It’s a smart investment for all who care about the future of our kids and the future of our national security.”
The bill is scheduled for a committee vote next week.