Praise Increased Kindergarten Access for Low-Income Families

kindergarten

Target: Washington Governor Jay Inslee

Goal: Celebrate current plan for all-day kindergarten, encourage follow-through and work out the kinks in the current plan.

The Washington State Constitution clearly states that it falls upon the state as a “paramount duty” to sufficiently fund basic education. After a lengthy court battle, the state Supreme Court mandated through the decision in McCleary v. Washington that the state was lagging behind in its basic duties to fund basic education in Washington State. This court decision showed us that Washington has not been upholding the standards required of them by law, and that further cuts to education were out of the question. This event created a realization and a catalyst for the Governor, State Legislature, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to work together in order to ensure that the K-12 funding situation is fixed and students receive the adequate support and resources that they desperately need.

In the United States, Kindergarten-12th grade are still considered the years of compulsory education. However, in Washington State, only grades 1st-12th grades are state-funded. It is rare in most states for students to begin schooling in 1st grade, and it is highly recommended by professionals that students attend at least kindergarten, if not pre-school as well. As of right now, fully funded all-day Kindergarten is only available at 44% of Washington’s elementary schools.

Thankfully, due to this Supreme Court case in early 2012, the state’s lead officers in charge of education have started improving children’s access to early education. Just this June, the legislature granted nearly $50 million to increase funding, and the money will be distributed by poverty rates, going to the lowest income areas first to fund all-day Kindergarten.

While this money is an improvement, it comes with a catch: districts can’t use it to create new classroom space. Districts such as the Mukilteo District had to turn down the grant because they physically can’t fit all-day Kindergartens in their existing school buildings. Districts are forced to turn to their own budgets to spend money to create the extra space, and much of the time, that money isn’t there. This is a huge barrier against creating all-day Kindergartens, and needs to be addressed immediately in the legislature.

Currently in the Seattle Public School District, this new grant has added 8 new all-day Kindergartens, for a total of 27 out of 68 elementary schools participating, and in the entire state, it has added 58 all-day programs. If you aren’t living in the zone for one of the low-income Kindergartens, it will cost you about $3,000 per year to send your child. While this is an improvement, the legislature needs to continue working together with the Governor and the State Superintendent to continue fighting for educational funding until all Washington elementary schools have quality state-supported all-day kindergarten programs. By signing the petition below, you will be commending Washington State and the Supreme Court for the progress they have made thus far in improving educational access to low-income families, and asking the state to continue to strive to provide this right to low-income families.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Governor Jay Inslee,

The Supreme Court decision on education in 2012 emphasized that the State of Washington has not been doing enough to finance the state’s schools. Washington schools are not shining, as the state currently has a 77% high school graduation rate, and the achievement gaps between low and high income students are huge, and are not getting any smaller.

Education is by far the most important tool we have to improve our society as a whole, and investing money wisely into it is both necessary and worthwhile. It has been proven that quality pre-school and Kindergarten programs push students ahead and ensure greater success throughout their entire lives. Quality Kindergarten programs prevent money spent later on special education programs, remedial programs, and create lower drop-out rates. The earlier that children are educated, the more they benefit by gaining early skills in communication and creating better study skills which ultimately lead them to be better workers in society.  Studies have also proven that children who completed quality early childhood education end up earning more, and therefore paying more taxes and contributing more to society.

I can see that you have stated in your goals as Governor to expand all-day kindergarten funding in order to cover all of Washington’s low-income schools. I commend you on this goal, but I urge you to strive towards requiring all elementary schools, not just low-income schools, in Washington State to offer full-day state-funded kindergarten as part of state compulsory schooling. I also urge you to resolve the current problem schools are having with the recent $50 million grant, as this money cannot be used toward creating new classroom spaces, which bars some schools from accepting the money. If the schools do not have room for all-day kindergarten, but have been given funding from this grant, they should be able to use this money to create their new classrooms. I urge you to find a resolution to this problem so that these low-income schools can use this money.

I commend your pledged support and efforts to continue improving Washington’s early education system. Education is the most important investment into the future of our state, and I hope that you continue fighting for this.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Pictures for Coloring

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76 Signatures

  • Eric von Borstel
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  • Elma Tassi
  • Pedro Lima
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  • Melissa Rodriguez
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