by Rep. Maureen Walsh for the Prosser Record-Bulletin
If you have children, you know the feeling of leaving your precious children with someone you recently met, friends or even a family member. You worry: Will my child miss me? Will something happen the person caring for them can’t handle? Will they enjoy themselves? And if they spent an extended amount of time with a care provider, perhaps while you were at work, you wondered what they did all day.
While most day care providers offer loving, stimulating environments for children, as well as the chance for kids to socialize with each other, we can make more of this time. Children can spend less time in front of TV and computer screens and more time learning their ABCs, colors and stimulating their minds for lifelong learning.
Over the short interim after last year’s session adjourned, I spent time on a legislative task force whose goal was to look at how the state can improve the quality of child care and effectively pay for that care. During our meetings, we looked at child care reimbursements, early learning opportunities, and how to address subsidy cut-off to provide stability for children, parents and providers.
I’m supporting legislation this year, House Bill 2377, to provide an incentive for day care providers to be involved with our state’s Early Achievers program. This program educates providers on how they can interact with children on an educational level to help prepare them for school. Providers who reach a level 3 in the program would be compensated. The bill will also address inequities and cut-offs for providers and families using the Working Connections program that subsidizes child care for low-income parents who are working. This will help provide stability for both the child and the provider as the subsidy gradually reduces and the parent can afford care on their own.
Why do day care standards matter to average taxpayers? Because the Legislature should be using every tax dollar efficiently, with results-driven approaches. I believe strongly that early childhood education is the best return on investment this state has gotten. For every dollar invested in high quality preschool programs, taxpayers save up to $8 in future costs. Not only does early learning lead to better preparation for school, we are seeing higher graduation rates and even reduced crime in high-risk students. This is remarkable, and well worth your hard-earned dollars. The effects of early learning can be seen throughout our society in positive ways, and I will continue to ensure families of all backgrounds have access to the very best child care possible.
Rep. Maureen Walsh represents the 16th Legislative District in the state Legislature. She serves on the House Early Learning & Human Services Committee as the ranking Republican. When the Legislature is not in session, Walsh lives in Walla Walla where she owns and operates a small business.