Public policy is a significant catalyst for change because it directs funding toward important community-health and human-service needs that complement the ongoing fundraising and investment efforts of United Way of Whatcom County. The United Ways of Washington have developed a statewide public-policy agenda, which we adopted at United Way of Whatcom County. We provide information to legislators and to the public in an effort to increase understanding and awareness of the impact of policy and budget decisions on health and human services in our community.
UNITED WAYS OF WASH. PUBLIC POLICY AGENDA 2013
The United Ways of Washington (UWWA) is the statewide association for 23 of Washington’s local United Ways. United Ways in Washington State are committed to improving lives by gathering the caring power of communities to advance the common good.
Tackling the United Way focus areas of Education, Income and Health will require the combined talents, energy, and resources of business, government, the faith community and philanthropy. No individual sector is able to meet these challenges alone. United Ways believe that the first priority of each sector is to keep our communities strong. Strong communities prioritize vulnerable populations, notably children and seniors.
Education: Early Learning
Research overwhelmingly demonstrates that quality early learning is the best long-term investment to increase positive economic outcomes in a child and family’s lives and at the same time decrease negative social costs. Washington state is nationally recognized for its commitment to early leaning, culminating in the award of a federal Race to the Top grant.
United Ways in Washington recognize and support the existence of multi-year plans and goals to improve early leaning to close the opportunity gap and ensure children enter kindergarten ready to succeed. We support the plans and aspirations of the Legislature and the Department of Early Learning have identified around increasing access to ECEAP, quality child care, home visiting, and expansion of WaKIDS. To meet these goals, increased investments are necessary. Any progress that can be made, even in these challenging times, would be beneficial.
Further, as the Legislature focuses oneducational reform,we encouragerecognition of the key role quality early learning plas in K-12 school success. It is also critical that policy makers recognize the interconnectedness of the human service system with education. Children need access to services such as health care and food supports to be successful in school. Cuts to these areas could undermine school reform efforts.
Governor Jay Inslee
In particular, we support:
Funding Maintenance Priorities
1. Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)
Studies consistently show that access to quality early care and education for all children, such as the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), prepare children for success in school, increase graduation rates and reduce crime. State law sets a target of 2019 for enrollment of all eligible three- and four-year olds in ECEAP. Currently, 8391 children are served in ECEAP. In 2019, it is estimated the population of eligible children will total 48,924 (110% of the federal poverty level, or $20, 382 for a family of three). This means the state must accelerate its expansion efforts to meet the 2019 deadline.
2. Working Connections Child Care (WCCC)
Child care affordability is a challenge for working families. Continued access to child care subsidies allows families to work and maintain jobs while their children are in a safe environment. Our state's Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) program efficiency and efficacy is hampered by bureaufratic barriers; fluctuating family income eligibility levels (recently reinstituted at 200% of the federal poverty level); and an inadequate provider reimursement rate (in many cases less than 50% of the market rate). Initiation of the Early Achievers program, made possible through federal Race to the Top funds, provides a unique opportunity to incent quality improvements through an enhanced reimbursement rate.
3. Birth to Three Services
Significant brain development occurs in the first three years of life, yet we lack an infrastructure to support these critical early years. We also know parents are our children's first and most important teachers, In response to legislative and administrative direction, there has been work to establish a birth to three infrastructure as well as support of public-private efforts to support programs such as Home Visitation, provider training and Reach Out and Read.
Currently, the state invests $934,000 annually in Home Visitation. This funding is matched wtih private funds. Additionally, Wahsington has been awarded federal Home Visiting dollars. These awards will total $33.4 million through 2015 and will also be matched with federal dollars. Further, the state directs $1.3 million of federal Child Care and Development Funds to the Infant and Toddler Consultation program. This program is focused on improving the quality in licensed child care. This funding provides support and training to 275-300 providers.
The recent recommendations on birth to three funding for 2013-15 submitted to the Legislature by the Department of Early Learning and Thrive by Five Washington recommend 1) increasing the state's investment by $1 million annually and 2) investing $1.3 million in state funds to increase the number of child care providers receiving Infant and Toddler Consultation quality improvement efforts.
The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) is a kindergarten transition process that allows families, early learning professionals, and kindergarten teachers to share information about incoming kindergarteners so that children enter kindergarten prepared to succeed. It is an inventory of the skills these kindergarteners have and creates a process for parents, early learning professionals, and kindergarten teachers to communicate so that a child's needs are best met. WaKIDS is funded primarily through federal Race to the Top funds, is linked to implementation of full-day kindergarten and shows promise of providing data on the effictiveness of early learning programs and gaps.
United Ways of Washington