You’re Doubling Access to Early Learning Education
Last updated: April 15, 2022, at 12:07 p.m. PT
Originally published: April 15, 2022, at 11:04 a.m. PT
The Covid-19 pandemic has shocked education systems worldwide. Critical social and emotional learning (SEL) benefits such as multiculturally rooted play with peers and the exploration of natural spaces that create our connection to the planet, were disrupted if not stopped completely. Our youngest learners have been deeply impacted by the effects of the pandemic, which has disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, Latinx/Hispanic and Pacific Islander communities in King County. Since March 2020, nearly 40 percent of child care centers have closed in Washington, and others saw a steep decline in attendance.
A physical and mental toll on caregivers also led to a reduction in available early childhood workforce. These closures and reduced availability for crucial care has increased the need for the Y’s child care programs to fill the gaps left behind. Without access to child care, millions of parents, most significantly women and disproportionally women with lower incomes, have retreated from the workforce, likely exacerbating the workforce gender gap for generations. The Y has worked to lift our young learners by creating positive early childhood learning spaces to meet the need, and with the support of donors like you, we are doubling access to early learning education.
Early education programs play a vital role in child care and in preparing children for school. One out of four students entering kindergarten in South King County is kindergarten-ready. For the 75 percent that are not kindergarten-ready, they have been shown to start falling behind peers in their learning and development, and then continue to struggle to effectively “catch up” throughout their entire educational journey into adulthood. Decades of studies have shown that while all children benefit from preschool, lower –income homes, immigrants, and children of color often make the most gains. However, there are barriers to access: 35 percent of children coming from lower incomes are kindergarten-ready, compared to 61 percent of children in families earning livable wages. Further disparities are evident when examining kindergarten readiness by race and ethnicity: 57 percent of incoming White students are kindergarten-ready, while only 35 percent of Latino, 33 percent of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 34 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native, and 44 percent of Black students meet this criterion.
Immigrant children, many of whom are dual-language learners, show large benefits from pre-kindergarten education, both in their English-language proficiency and other academic skills. Dual-language learners, particularly in South King County, are also more likely to come from lower –income homes. Many of their parents do not speak English, contributing to underdeveloped English pre-literacy and pre-math skills.
Early learning education is one of the most powerful levers to breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty. Early intervention and prevention of inequities is critical to building strong and healthy communities. That’s why increasing access to early learning education is one of the focus goals of our strategic plan, Vision 2025.
Pheneas Fennell is the parent of a Y Early Education participant and as an educator, he knows first-hand the benefits of access to robust care and preparation for kindergarten. “A child who’s had a quality education has more of a chance of graduating from high school,” said Pheneas. “They have a greater chance of staying out of prison and having positive relationships in their life. The value of an early education is profound.”
Watch the full Early Education Video:
The Y has been providing high-quality child care and early education in King and South Snohomish counties for more than 45 years. In 2021, the Y operated four Early Education Centers in Seattle and Auburn, serving more than 200 families every day. In 2022, the Y opened centers in Woodinville and West Seattle, and will be opening a center in Redmond this summer, expanding our capacity to serve 500 more families daily by the end of the year. The Y offers child care at approximately 80 percent market rates to ensure affordability for families. The Y also provides direct financial assistance based on income and need to ensure every family has access to quality early education. In 2021 the Y issued $185,105 in direct financial assistance for early learning. Our goal is to double that amount with our increased capacity this year.
Watch our recent Mission Forum on early education to learn more about the need from local education from local experts and advocates.