Frequently Asked Questions about the Equity Starts Early campaign
Equity Starts Early is an effort to bring greater public awareness around the need for a a comprehensive early learning and child care system in Washington State, one that is accessible and affordable to all families regardless of race, income or geography. We are building a broad base of public and grassroots support to ensure that babies and children of all races and ethnicities across Washington State have access to high quality early learning and child care programs.
Currently, the child care and early learning system in Washington State is piecemeal and not adequately resourced to meet the demand in our communities. This was true before the pandemic and is even worse now. Too many families across our state lack access to or cannot afford high quality early learning or child care. Thousands of children are losing out on a critically important opportunity to get the support they need in order to be able to enter kindergarten ready to learn and succeed. This is particularly true for lower income families and families of color. This lack of access to affordable child care and early learning places major stresses on parents and families, and significantly increases inequities in our society. Equity really does start early.
The significant existing deficiencies in our early learning and child care system have been greatly heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Washington State Child Care Collaborative Task Force, even before the pandemic, over half a million children did not have access to licensed child care and 67% of Washington employers reported absenteeism due to child care issues. Since the pandemic,many child care providers have faced the threat of shutting down, leaving thousands of parents across the state scrambling to care for their children while fulfilling work responsibilities. This situation not only harms thousands of working families in our state, but also it threatens to undermine our economic recovery from the ravages of the pandemic.
With thousands of working families struggling to find early learning and child care programs they can afford, and with many working parents now forced to choose between work and caring for their young children, urgent state action is needed to address the widening gaps in the system. Only 1.1% of Washington’s state budget is dedicated to early learning and child care. This level of investment is woefully inadequate to meet the need, which has only grown more dramatically since the pandemic. We urge legislative leaders to prioritize early learning and child care funding given that it is an essential service that must be available to essential workers during the pandemic, and given its central importance to the state’s economic recovery.
Yes, recent polling showed that the challenge of balancing child care and work during the pandemic is among voters’ top concerns (71 percent say it is a very or extremely serious problem), with more than half of parents saying their current situation in providing care for their children is not sustainable. More than three in five voters consider it important that young children of all backgrounds have access to early learning opportunities, nearly two-thirds agree that the care of younger than kindergarten-age children should be publicly funded, and more than three in five see either a need for additional funding for early learning and childcare.
Your voice and your support can make a real difference. Please sign up here to join our grassroots effort and add your name to our petition to the members of the Washington State legislature urging them to make critical investments in early learning and child care to support Washington’s children and working families towards a more equitable economic recovery.
Add Your Name
To: Members of the Washington State Legislature
We can’t afford to leave working families behind. Please support critical investments in essential early learning and child care services.