In light of the $9 billion deficit, it appears that no state-funded program will be spared. Among those that will suffer the greatest loss will be our children.
While the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Programs (ECEAP) are often applauded for its high quality kindergarten readiness component, it is also a comprehensive care program that provides families access to other community resources and services.
The battle is shaping up to be human services or early learning, I certainly do not envy the legislators and the determinations they have to make – but wouldn't it seem a bit odd to scale back the capability for families to access the services you are scrambling to save?
Not to mention the undue burden placed on taxpayers when we fail to adequately prepare our children for life. An investment at the preschool level for children who are at the most high-risk for failure saves a great deal of costs in regards to special education classes, grade retention, public assistance and incarceration further down the road. Research has proven time and time again that when children are better educated they are more productive as adults, likely to be healthier and pay more taxes. When children start behind, they tend to stay behind – what an enormous loss of human potential!
My son, Colton, is an ECEAP student. Like every other parent, I believe my child is amazing and should be given every opportunity to succeed in life. I try my absolute best to never discourage him from anything and encourage him to achieve to the absolute best of his abilities.
When he told me that he wanted to be an astronaut so he could fly, we read books, drew pictures, studied stars and created space suits and rockets. I never told him that humans cannot fly – or that as a low-income family we couldn't afford a spaceship.
We visited Olympia last month to plead our case to the legislators. I told him that we needed to ask the legislators for monies for his school. When I asked him how much money should we ask for, he replied "five dollars."
My question to you is, if every resident in the State of Washington invested just $5 in early education, how much would we have? $32,938,000. (As of April 1, 2008, 6,587,600 lived in WA State).
For less than the price of one Big Mac Value Meal for each person, we could influence the life of not only one child – but also every person that will interact with that child for the rest of their life.
If the legislators cannot make the magic to save ECEAP, maybe you can make the choice to invest in our future. No child should suffer from a lack of resources.
Vice Chair Washington State Association of HeadStart/ECEAP