Washington State House Democrats


What happens when the legislature isn’t in session

The legislative session may have ended in July, but representing the 32nd District is a job I take seriously all year long. During the interim, when I am not spending time playing with my wonderful granddaughter,  I am busy learning about issues in the 32nd District and reaching out to communities across the state on early learning and human service issues related to my committee work. I speak at conferences to help other states and advocates understand how Washington has become a leader in early learning; visit local schools and childcare providers to learn how the laws we passed during the legislative session and impacting people and communities; and I listen to constituents, advocates, and professionals to craft new legislation for the upcoming session.

Visiting schools and child care providers
In early October, the Early Learning and Human Services Committee took an early learning tour in Eastern Washington. I had the opportunity to visit child care providers in Pasco and Spokane. The providers I spoke with are passionate about the importance of quality early learning for the young children in their care and deeply appreciate the support they are receiving from the Department of Early Learning. They are eager to bring the latest research to their jobs. 

 Washington State Legislative Sup
Celebrating the passage of early start

After working many years to elevate early learning in our state, I was thrilled to see a dramatic change in the perspectives of providers.  They increasingly see themselves as early learning professionals — not baby sitters. And now, with the passage of the Early Start Act last session, we finally have a comprehensive quality rating system for pre-school and child care providers that will give them the support and resources they need to create high quality early learning opportunities for all young Washingtonians. 

In October I also visited Broadview-Thompson Elementary to observe a classroom and get a better understanding of the impacts that chronic underfunding of K-12 education has on our elementary age children and teachers. The class I visited was working on a math and science lesson using donated books and materials from Chevron. Even with donated supplies like these, teachers end up spending hundreds of their own dollars each year on classroom materials. It was remarkable watching the skilled first year teacher in this kindergarten classroom inspiring the curiosity and imagination of over 20 children.  The legislature needs to make sure that all students have access to these opportunities, not just those in the few classrooms where necessary supplies are donated. 

Around the country, researchers, policy makers, parents, and educators recognize that high quality early learning is one of most effective ways to give every child the opportunity to succeed. This isn’t news to us here in Washington – we have been working to give all children access to high quality early learning for years. Policy makers from other states have been flocking to Washington to learn about our programs and how we have been able to implement a successful early learning agenda. 

In October, I spoke at a National Governors Association (NGA) meeting in Seattle. The NGA brought leaders from 12 states to learn from Washington’s success in developing and implementing science-informed policies and strategies to get better results for children. 

Later this week, Zero to Three, a national early learning organization, is bringing their annual conference for professionals who work with infants and toddlers to Seattle. Zero to Three is focused on providing the latest research on early childhood development to parents, caregivers and professionals. I am excited for the opportunity to share Washington’s experience with successful passage of major early learning legislation, and lessons learned in the process.

Next week I will travel to Washington D.C  to a White House State Education Leaders Convening  which will include a discussion of early learning.

Crafting new policy for the upcoming legislative session
The interim also is a time to look at what changes we need to be working on when the legislature reconvenes in January. Children’s mental health is an area that needs improvement. I was alarmed to learn that the expulsion rate from child care and pre-school is more than three times the rate in K-12!  This can deal a devastating blow to young children and their chances to succeed in school.

Over the interim, I have been chairing a Children’s Mental Health Workgroup to look at ways to decrease expulsions by providing more education and support to caregivers and parents.  I expect to sponsor legislation and funding for this initiative in the coming session.

The Workgroup is also discussing social emotional learning in schools across the state, and the need to assure that students receive support and encouragement when they face emotional struggles.

There are many challenges that lay ahead, but there have also been many successes. Reflecting on our early learning successes in speaking with early learning professionals and policy makers from other states this year has inspired me to keep working on behalf of all our children and young people. Working together, I know that we can give all our children and grandchildren a better start.

As always, I welcome your questions, ideas and suggestions about any issue the legislature is considering or should consider.  Next session, education and funding will be the primary agenda issues.  In January, I will provide much more information on both of these topics as the legislative session begins. I hope to hear from many constituents about their ideas for funding and strengthening our K-12 schools.

With my best wishes to you and your families for this holiday season.

Best regards,