New Research Brief: Early Learning Improves Kindergarten Readiness and Reduces Disparities for Kids of Color
We all have a stake in making sure that from the day they’re born, kids can have the enriching experiences they need to get off to a great start in life. Quality early learning can give children the tools they need to thrive academically and emotionally throughout their entire lives.
This new KIDS COUNT in Washington research brief demonstrates why legislators need to make greater investments in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) – our state’s preschool program that serves children from families living in poverty. Expanding this program to ensure all eligible kids can participate could help more of Washington’s kids show up to kindergarten ready to learn. It could especially help many children of color who haven’t had equal access to opportunities that promote kindergarten readiness.
ECEAP, which serves families with incomes below 110 percent of the federal poverty line ($26,730 for a family of four in 2017), offers many of our state’s most vulnerable children quality early-childhood learning experiences. It has a proven record of improving kindergarten readiness and impacting their long-term academic success. Yet because of inadequate state investments in this program, there are currently about 23,000 unserved children eligible for ECEAP in Washington, 62 percent of whom we estimate are children of color.
KIDS COUNT in Washington, which is a partnership between the Budget & Policy Center and the Children’s Alliance, examined how expanding ECEAP to serve the 23,000 unserved eligible children could impact readiness for kindergarten across the state and help bridge disparities in access to opportunities that promote kindergarten readiness. Our analysis concluded:
- Kindergarten readiness in Washington overall could increase by 20 percent (to 56 percent from 47 percent);
- 7,900 more children could be ready for kindergarten on all six indicators of readiness (1) by the end of their year in ECEAP; and
- The share of Latino, American Indian, and Black children ready for kindergarten could have the largest increases (See chart for more details).
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The Washington State Department of Early Learning has set a goal of ensuring that, by 2020, 90 percent of Washington children enter kindergarten prepared to learn, with race and family income no longer a predictor of kindergarten readiness. A key to delivering on that promise is to make sure all eligible children have access to ECEAP.
See our full research brief for more information on how expanding ECEAP could improve kindergarten readiness for all kids in Washington state and help bridge disparities for kids of color.
For more detailed technical information on our analysis, please contact email@example.com for a copy of our Data and Methods document.
1. The six indicators of readiness refer to an assessment by educators and teachers to measure kindergarten readiness on six developmental domains: social-emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy, and mathematics. See the full brief for more information on how the indicators are measured.
The Washington state legislature enacted the WFTR in 2008, but it was never funded. It is one of the most effective ways Washington can work to correct our state’s reliance on regressive sales taxes that overburden lower-income families. The rebate uses the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program, a powerful anti-poverty tool, as a basis for eligibility. The WFTR would provide qualifying low-wage workers with an annual boost to their income in the form of a tax credit.
Funding the WFTR would advance racial equity by supporting the economic security of Washingtonians of color who are working in low-wage jobs. Our new WFTR fact sheet shows how the WFTR would benefit families in all of Washington’s 39 counties from all racial backgrounds. For example, our analysis shows that, if the WFTR were funded:
• Recipients would invest $98.5 million back into local economies throughout Washington state, nearly half (49 percent) of which would go to communities of color.
• The rebate would improve the lives of many children of color, given that 51 percent of qualifying children in EITC-eligible households are children of color.
• Approximately 498,000 Washingtonians in all 39 counties of the state would be eligible for the WFTR, which means residents in all counties would see some economic gain.
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Take a look at our fact sheet for more information on how the Working Families Tax Rebate would advance equity for our state and its people.
The Senate Republicans' new plan to fund K-12 public schools continues to work within a framework that doesn’t raise additional revenue – a strategy that has proven ineffective at serving Washington's kids and that could force cuts to other important investments. To pay for the basics, including keeping excellent teachers and staff in our public schools, the legislature must inject more resources into schools than they have in recent years. Any plan to improve our schools must include additional new revenue, as well as a strong focus on equity, sustainability, and adequacy.
The Senate’s plan, called the Education Equality Act, features as its major funding source a new Local Effort Levy – basically, an increase to the statewide property tax of $1.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. As details about the plan emerge, however, it appears that the plan does not actually raise additional dollars for schools. That’s because the proposed statewide property tax increase is coupled with cuts to local property tax levies that currently fund a significant portion of basic education costs. As we’ve said in the past, levy swaps like this are schemes that change the source of the money flowing to schools but don’t actually make new investments in Washington’s kids.
As it is structured, the plan could deepen the shortfall in school funding because the plan does not pay for itself. It leaves a $1.4 billion hole in the 2019-2021 budget, for which its authors have yet to identify a source of funding. Promising to pay for education without identifying a funding source is a prescription for damaging cuts throughout the rest of the budget. And while the plan would dedicate future revenue growth to funding basic education, it would use any revenue growth in addition to the dedicated funds to decrease the new Local Effort Levy to a rate of $1.25. In short, the proposal is not only short on revenue now, but it is also designed to restrict revenue growth for schools and other public investments in the future.
There is certainly promise in raising additional school revenue through property tax reforms, as we have proposed. The Senate's plan would effectively nearly double the current state property tax rate. And it exempts the Local Effort Levy from the damaging 1 percent property tax levy growth limit, which is a positive step toward making the tax code more sustainable. But this plan should go further and get rid of the 1 percent levy growth limit altogether to allow property tax revenue to better keep up with the needs of our schools.
In addition, any reforms to the property tax should also include steps to fix our inequitable, upside-down tax code – in which Washingtonians with the lowest incomes pay seven times what the richest 1 percent pay in taxes as a share of income. The Senate's plan aims to more evenly distribute the tax code so that homeowners in every school district pay the same property tax rate, regardless of property values. But that doesn’t do enough to protect the thousands of lower- and middle-income homeowners and renters who would see higher property tax bills under the Senate proposal. The proposal should include a property tax safeguard rebate to ensure that property tax increases do not fall disproportionately on the shoulders of families who can’t afford it, no matter what part of the state they call home.
To learn more about the Senate Republicans' school funding plan, join our fiscal policy team for a Budget Beat webinar this Friday, February 3, at noon. And stay tuned for further analysis when more details about the fiscal impact of the plan become available.
It’s time for policymakers in Washington state to take steps to reverse decades of widening economic disparities that threaten broad prosperity, now that it has again been shown that all income growth since 2009 continues to flow to the wealthiest Washingtonians.
An updated report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the richest 1 percent of households – those making over $388,000 a year – captured all of the new income generated in Washington state between 2009 and 2013 (see graph). By contrast, and in a stark reversal from past decades, average incomes among the remaining 99 percent of Washingtonians declined during this period, causing far too many hardworking families to fall even further behind.
The richest 1 percent of Washingtonians didn’t always reap such an outsized share of income gains during periods of economic growth. Prior to 1980, the 99 percent typically captured at least 80 percent of all income gains during economic expansions.
Further, as the EPI report points out, it used to be considered outrageous for executives to receive multimillion dollar salaries and outsized bonuses while laying off workers. Today, as the vast majority of working people and families in Washington state continue to struggle, super-rich CEOs living here are doing better than ever. In fact, in 2015, the CEO of Washington state-based Expedia received the highest pay ($94.6 million) of any corporate chief executive in the county.
It has become abundantly clear in recent years that everyday Americans and Washingtonians are tired of the economic inequality that has become the norm. In our state, we need policies that help all communities thrive by strengthening employment and creating more living-wage jobs. We need to make sure our tax code doesn’t favor the wealthy and the politically connected over the common good.
In fact, our upside-down tax system – where Washingtonians with the lowest incomes pay seven times as much in state and local taxes as a share of their income than the richest 1 percent – makes it even harder for the 99 percent to get ahead.
Building a stronger Washington economy requires greater economic equality and overall equity. Lawmakers must undo the systemic inequities that have created gaps in opportunity for many people of color to receive good jobs and living-wage salaries.
In Washington state:
- Voters can help advance economic equality and close the opportunity gap if Initiative 1433, now gathering signatures, makes it on the November ballot and passes. It would incrementally raise the minimum wage to $13.50 over four years, increasing the take-home pay for 730,000 people working across a range of sectors. It would also provide paid sick leave, so parents don’t lose wages when they need to take care of themselves or their children when they’re sick.
- Lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session must pass the capital gains tax recently proposed by Governor Inslee and leaders in the State House, which has been endorsed by major papers and many community groups throughout our state. And they should use the revenue from capital gains to invest in education, health care, and other services that expand economic opportunities for everyone.
And as lawmakers work to craft policies that seek to provide economic opportunity to Washingtonians, they must be especially mindful that those policies empower those who have been most harmed by racism and other structural inequalities that fuel the rise in economic inequality.
In order to live up to the promise of a brighter future for our state, we need public policies that create opportunities for all communities to succeed. However, the policies and programs that lawmakers enact often run the risk of creating barriers to success – particularly for people of color and people with low incomes. Racial equity assessment tools, like the ones proposed in House Bill 2076 and Substitute Senate Bill 5752, should be incorporated into the legislative process. These assessment tools help lawmakers better understand the real impacts of their proposed policies by highlighting how they either promote opportunity by advancing racial equity or reinforce barriers by perpetuating institutional racism.
Below is a summary of HB 2076 and SB 5752:
- Both bills would require key government agencies to develop a procedure for implementing racial impact statements for resolutions and legislative bills. These statements would be intended to demonstrate how a given policy would impact a range of potential outcomes -- from economic security to community safety to environmental health -- in communities of color.
- HB 2076 is stronger than SB 5752 by requiring that agencies actually complete a racial impact statement for a bill or resolution at the request of any legislator. Producing such statements would be an important, measurable step toward fixing a system that, in too many cases, has contributed to keeping Washington state’s people and communities from reaching their full potential.
Both bills could be strengthened even more by requiring racial impact statements be completed for all bills affecting health and human service caseloads. Because to make meaningful change, policymakers must institutionalize practices that seek to undo racism.
As legislators consider the implementation of racial equity assessments in our state, they don’t have to look far for inspiration. Several states across the nation, including Oregon, have successfully instituted racial equity impact statements for various forms of legislation. In addition, King County has an Equity Impact Review Tool and the City of Seattle has a Racial Equity Toolkit, both of which have led to important changes in how policies are drafted. HB 2076 and SB 5752 are a great start toward ensuring these types of efforts are happening statewide in Washington.
We all want to build a better future for our families and our state, but to fulfill that promise we must change the way we do our work. Racial equity impact statements are an important tool in the larger efforts to ensure that all members of our communities have access to the building blocks of a strong economy. And they also will help to undo the systemic inequities that have all too often played a role in keeping communities of color and people with low incomes on unstable and unequal footing.
Learn more about various racial equity impact assessment tools and see local examples, including the tool we developed with our Washington KIDS COUNT partners at Children’s Alliance, here. Racial equity impact assessments were also a key topic at our Budget Matter Summit this year. If you missed it, check out this video of the summit panel.
As Washington state’s population becomes more diverse, our lawmakers must invest in the needs of an increasingly multiracial and multiethnic population and ensure that there is equity for all Washingtonians. Too many people of color in Washington don’t have the opportunities they need to advance alongside their peers.
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Our state budget must address persistent race and class divides so that all Washingtonians can contribute their talents toward a thriving 21st century economy. Equity and inclusion aren’t just simply the right thing to do – they are imperative to our economic success (see sidebar for definition of equity versus equality).
So as lawmakers negotiate the budget, they should make investments to advance racial equity. This is paramount to helping ensure that hardworking Washington families can get ahead, kids can receive a top-notch education, and we can help create a healthy future for our residents and our environment.
The Facing Race report recently offered key budget recommendations that would invest in opportunity for communities of color. Using the report as a framework, it's clear that the House budget proposal takes some initial steps to help advance equity. The Senate budget proposal, on the other hand, doesn’t do enough.
Washington should have a world-class education system that promotes opportunity and helps ensure a strong 21st century economy. However, we cannot achieve this as a state when so many of our kids face such significant barriers to opportunity. The opportunity gap in education – the gap that results from social and institutional obstacles that make it more difficult for some students to succeed – is especially prominent for kids of color and can start as early as nine months. It continues from early learning all the way through higher education.
Policymakers should work to close this gap so that all Washingtonians have the chance to thrive. This means making sure kids get quality early learning opportunities that set them up for success. It also means making targeted investments in K-12 education and making higher education more affordable.
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Our state does best when we have a strong and inclusive middle class that allows all Washingtonians to contribute their talents and creativity and be rewarded fairly for their hard work. However, growing income inequality in our state is undermining our progress. This is feeding into race and class divides that continue to limit the ability of all residents to climb into the middle class and share in our state’s prosperity.
More and more families in our state, especially families of color, are finding it difficult to put food on the table or a roof over their head. Legislators must take steps to improve economic security for all Washingtonians by restoring investments in programs that give a lifeline to people struggling to make ends meet.
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Healthy People & Environment
Affordable health care is essential to ensure a high quality of life. We also know the environment is playing an increasingly important role in the health and well-being of our communities. However, for too many Washingtonians, including people of color, access to care and a healthy environment are not easy to come by.
While great strides have been made to improve access to affordable health care in recent years, legislators have more work to do to ensure that all communities in Washington state can get the care they need.
Further, communities of color are often the first and worst hit by the effects of pollution. Lawmakers should adopt policies that enable Washingtonians to live in a healthy environment that promotes good health.
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In order for our state to thrive, we need a revenue system that asks everyone to pay their fair share, that is stable, and that provides enough resources to make the investments we need to build a better future. However, our revenue system currently relies disproportionately on residents with lower incomes. Because communities of color are more likely to be among the poorest fifth of Washingtonians, this also means they are more likely to pay the highest portion of their income in state and local taxes – 17 percent. Meanwhile, the wealthiest fifth of Washingtonians pay only 2 percent of their income in state and local taxes. What’s more, people with low incomes, including many people of color, are more likely to feel the pain of budget cuts that are a result of that broken system.
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We know that people of color in Washington state are challenged by a system that limits their access to equal opportunities, but this doesn’t have to be the story. There is still time during special session for lawmakers to make 2015 a year of great progress toward this goal, and they should seize it. Taking these steps today would lead to a better Washington tomorrow. It would allow us to become a place where everyone has an equal chance to succeed.
To learn more about how communities of color are faring in Washington state, see the full Facing Race report – which was released by a coalition of over 50 organizations. It includes a range of additional policy recommendations for how state lawmakers can advance racial equity. For additional such recommendations, read our other recent reports: The Progress Index and Creating an Equitable Future: Black Well-Being 2015 & Beyond.
The Budget & Policy Center staff would like to thank Emijah Smith, Community Organizer with Children's Alliance, and Sharonne Navas, Executive Director of the Equity in Education Coalition, for their assistance with this post.
Racism and inequality are looming problems in Washington State. They cast a shadow over the lives of many Black people, leading to a lack of economic security, poor health, and high levels of stress. A new study commissioned by an independent coalition seeks to encourage citizens and leaders to address these issues, engage in conversations focused on solutions, and develop policies and laws to help Blacks gain equal footing with other races and ethnicities.
The report, “Creating an Equitable Future for Black Washingtonians,” outlines some of the major ways our social, economic, and political systems in Washington state intertwine to create barriers to opportunity that impede progress within the Black community.
The coalition releasing this report is composed of Centerstone, the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs, and the African American Leadership Forum.
The report identifies multiple solutions for improving opportunities for Blacks in our state. These proposals would not only help to improve the well-being of Blacks as individuals and as communities, but they would also serve to strengthen our state’s economic and civic future. Some of these solutions are:
- Enable economic policies to ensure that all families in Washington state can meet their basic needs.
- Expand learning opportunities and resources for Black children and families, from early learning through higher education.
- Improve state policies and programs to better meet the needs of Black youth to reduce their involvement with the criminal justice system.
- Create community-driven strategies to create a more just and equitable political system.
- Promote policies so that everyone in the Black community has adequate access to health insurance and care.
By working toward these changes, we can strengthen the lives of our residents, enhance the communities in Washington State, and ensure that Blacks have the opportunity to contribute to our state’s economy now and in the future.
This report is the first phase of a longer effort by the coalition to elevate and amplify the voices of Black Washingtonians in the decision-making processes that influence their everyday lives.
The Budget and Policy Center conducted the research and analysis for this report. The research focuses on five key areas of well-being (which correspond directly with some of the key areas highlighted in our new Progress Index) – economic security, education, health, criminal justice, and civic engagement – to highlight conditions in the Black community and contribute to a robust conversation about what an equitable future in Washington State looks like.
View the press release about the report.