We just returned from a week-long bus tour across the state of Washington to raise awareness about the importance of early learning, and we are still reflecting on the amazing conversations we had with lawmakers, advocates, and business owners. We want to thank our fantastic partners – the Association of Washington Business Institute – for their exceptional work on this issue.
We are working on a detailed report about this tour, but in the meantime, we wanted to share a few big takeaways.
The lack of affordable, accessible child care is a state-wide issue that requires all hands on deck to fix. Though local communities have specific setbacks, (IE, the lack of transportation for child care in more rural areas, the need for child care early in the morning for farm workers’ families, and more) it is clear that families with children are struggling to find affordable, accessible care that works for them.
Communities are finding solutions. Many people cited the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Y, and YWCA as successes in the community. Additionally, investments made through the Early Learning Facilities program (ELF), the Imagine Institute, and others improve facilities and teacher training.
Child care worker pay and benefits are a major challenge. Across the state, many attendees cited that the low pay and lack of benefits are a big challenge for child care in the community. One provider said, “It’s not that there is a lack of people who want to work with children. It’s that there is a lack of people who can afford to.”
Businesses want to find solutions. We were glad to have Paige Coleman with the Department of Commerce on the tour to discuss implementing family friendly workplace policies. Many employers offer FSAs, flexible scheduling, and hybrid work to accommodate family needs.
High-quality early learning drastically improves outcomes for children. In the first five years of life, 92% of brain development occurs. Early learning sets children up for success in kindergarten and beyond.
Providers, businesses, and advocates want to help. Many people told us that child care is essential for communities to function – without affordable child care, parents cannot work or go to school.
We are encouraged and inspired by the response to the bus tour! Stay tuned for our full report. To view our resources that we compiled for the bus tour, please click here.
LEAP (Legislator Education and Action Project) is a partnership between the Association of Washington Business Institute and Children's Campaign Fund Action. To learn more about LEAP, please visit washingtonleap.org.