Policy Resource

Washington State Early Childhood Governance and Advocacy

Feb 9, 2016

In 2006, Washington state passed important pieces of legislation that increase the capacity of the state to provide sound early childhood services. Among the legislation passed was a bill to create the Department of Early Learning (DEL).

The creation of the Department of Early Learning empowers the state to move all of its early childhood services under one department, allowing them to integrate services better and systemize early learning in the state. The department is a merger of The Division of Child Care and Early Learning (formerly part of the Department of Social and Health Services), the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (which used to be part of the Department of Community Trade and Economic Development), and the Early Reading First program (formerly part of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction).

Additionally, legislation was passed to create Thrive Washington, a public-private partnership for early childhood services. Launched in the summer of 2006, Thrive serves as a governing body for early learning services, setting policy and fundraising for additional services. The organization is governed by a board of directors consisting of funding partners, and a steering committee was established to provide programmatic oversight. Initial pledges to totaled $9 million in pooled funds for various early learning initiatives in the state. To learn more about this partnership visit http://www.thrivebyfivewa.org/

These efforts were the result of recommendations from an early learning steering committee of Washington Learns. Washington Learns, created and led by former Governor Christine Gregoire, conducted a top to bottom, 18-month review of Washingtons entire education system, its structure and funding. The recommendations developed by Washington Learns will fundamentally change educational expectations, delivery and results. To view a full copy of Washington Learns 2006 Final Report, click here.

In 2007 the Washington State legislature charged the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and its Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) with developing a statewide early learning plan that ensures school readiness for all children in Washington. For two years parents, caregivers, early learning professionals, teachers, advocates, state departmental staff and early learning funders engaged in discussions about: first, how to create a statewide plan for early learning, and second, what should be included in that plan. A draft of the ten-year Early Learning Plan was released in December 2009 for comments and suggestions by the general public. The plan was issued on September 1, 2010.

Now moving into year six of implementing the plan, DEL, Thrive, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Department of Health, and the Department of Social and Health Services work closely to implement key strategies outlined in the plan. These partners recently released a report outlining highlights from the first five years of implementation. To read the five year report, click here.

Updated January 2016

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