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Child-care centers: Can they do better by low-income families?

A bipartisan proposal in Olympia aims to improve the quality of their preparation for school.
Rep. Ross Hunter

Rep. Ross Hunter Photo: John Stang

State Sen. Steve Litzow (R)

State Sen. Steve Litzow (R) Washington State Legislature

Legislators hope to encourage child-care centers to improve their work with low-income pre-school children.

Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, is introducing a bill to map out how to improve pre-school education by linking it to state subsidies. The bill builds on preliminary work done by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Seattle.

The state's Working Connections program provides roughly $300 million this biennium to subsidize child-care centers that accept low-income kids from a few months to 12 years old. In this case, low-income means a family earning 200 percent or less of the federal poverty level — a sliding figure that depends on the number of people in a family. The program is designed to support roughly 33,000 households. But for various reasons, it currently handles only 27,000 to 28,000 families.

Child-care homes and centers are rated on a scale of Level 1 (state licensed with no extras) to Level 5 (licensed with a large number of quality educational activities). The bill would provide bigger subsidies to the child-care centers and homes as they increase from Level 1 to Level 3 or higher.

The bill would also require all newly licensed centers to improve themselves to a Level 3 within 30 months. Existing child-care providers would have five years to reach Level 3.

Studies show that Hispanic and African-American students have poorer high-school graduation rates than white and Asian students. Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island and chairman of the Senate's Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, said pre-school learning is a huge factor in success in school. The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate and House.

The financial calculations have not been done yet on how much this bill could cost, although Hunter speculated it would be less than $10 million. A source for the extra money has not been nailed down yet, he said.

John Stang covers state government for Crosscut. He can be reached by writing editor@crosscut.com.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jan 15, 9 p.m. Inappropriate

"Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island and chairman of the Senate's Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, said pre-school learning is a huge factor in success in school."

Something we've known, definitively, for 3 decades. And done not nearly enough about. I won't congratulate Litzow for uttering something about as aware as "hey have you guys heard about this thing called the internet??!!?"

nullbull

Posted Thu, Jan 16, 1:16 p.m. Inappropriate

"something we've known for 3 decades"? you are referring to HeadStart, yes? here's WIkepedia (not an anti-progressive organ) says:

"The study concludes, "Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole. For 3-year-olds, there are few sustained benefits, although access to the program may lead to improved parent-child relationships through 1st grade, a potentially important finding for children's longer term development."

I think this is a typical analysis of the program; does some good, maybe for only a year or two. I can't help but notice that moving some mothers (maybe some fathers) from family child care to paying work (fast food, housecleaning?) is a slight boost to the economy and perhaps generates some tax revenues. I think Sen. Litzow and his Democratic colleagues are aware of this. What this does to families is not something that is not talked about much. We, the majority are telling some parents that they offer such a diminished and straightened home life to their children that the government can do it better, moving parents somewhere to 15 dollar an hour jobs so their children can be cared for by educated professionals who will probably also be paid 15 dollars and hour. The programs and the history of this endeavor do not justify the snarky comment about Sen. Litzow. Coming late to this particular party is not a sign of stupidity. More like a thoughtful caution.

kieth

Posted Mon, Jan 20, 10:26 p.m. Inappropriate

It's tough on a childcare to be paid 46 cents on the dollar for providing high quality care. When a childcare board (or owner) looks a a $5K loss per month in providing education for state subsidized care to 8 children... it's a tough pill to swallow. The proposal would reduce that to about $3.5K per month loss. Better - but not financially viable.

Catherine

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