Letters to the Editor: Expand access to ECEAP

Expand access to ECEAP

Creating better support for all students while meeting the McCleary court mandate continues to be a significant challenge for our Legislature. As we navigate these choppy budgetary waters, it’s important to expand access to our state’s proven high-quality pre-K program for low-income students, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).

We know ECEAP students make major gains in early math and literacy. In the 2015-2016 school year, the number of students who scored at or above age level in early math and literacy rose by 88 percent and 310 percent, respectively.

Additionally, ECEAP students maintain those gains through their elementary years.

Research spotlighted by the business-leader group ReadyNation shows us that early exposure to a high-quality preschool can improve educational outcomes, like better graduation rates, and bolster employability by laying the foundation for skills our students will need in the workplace.

Today, 14 percent of people aged 16-24 are neither in school nor employed. An unprepared workforce is costing the nation $3.7 billion annually in remedial education services and lost wages.

Yet, in Chelan and Douglas counties, only 35 percent and 29 percent of eligible 3- and 4-year-olds have access to high-quality pre-K, while kindergarten readiness rates are 55 percent in Chelan County and 44 percent in Douglas County. This lack of access leaves nearly 860 youngsters unserved.

Now is the time to expand access to ECEAP so that more of our 3- and 4-year children can have access. Increased access to ECEAP will help our youngest learners and will add value to the investments we make in K-12 by increasing kindergarten readiness and performance down the line.

 

Alan Walker

Executive director

United Way of Chelan and Douglas Counties 

Wenatchee