Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Early Start" heading to Senate

Already a leader in the field of early learning, Washington state is poised to take another giant step toward preparing all kids for success in kindergarten and beyond under far-reaching legislation passed by the House last night.

House Bill 1723, by Rep. Ruth Kagi, creates a comprehensive system of early learning  that would be financed in large part by anticipated tax revenue from the 2012 legalization of marijuana under Initiative 502. 

“We want to give our kids – all our kids – a fair chance to achieve in school, and in life,” Kagi said. “Unfortunately, many 5-year-olds, especially from poor families, aren’t as well prepared for success as their more privileged classmates when they arrive at the kindergarten door. This ‘Early Start’ bill helps close that opportunity gap, which means more high-achieving and productive students, graduates and, ultimately, citizens of our state.”

Other bills in the families-and-children lineup approved Wednesday include:

HB 1671 expands the Working Connections Childcare Program that helps low-income families pay for child care while they work or look for work. It increases subsidies to keep pace with rising childcare costs and rewards providers who do an exceptional job caring for children. It passed 55-42.

HB 1285 requires a court to  appoint a lawyer to represent a child within 72 hours after the termination of the child’s relationship with his or her parents --  typically a prelude to foster care in cases of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Washington currently ranks 48th among the states in terms of legal representation for foster children. Children with legal representation spend less time in foster care, producing better outcomes for them and a savings for the state.

HB 1140 establishes a means for siblings to remain in contact if they are placed in different foster homes and cannot otherwise visit one another, provided a court determines that certain guidelines are met. It passed 64-33.

Read this story in Spanish.