The legislature determines that access to high quality early learning programs is not equal statewide and that children in low-income families face disparate outcomes due to the lack of access to programs.
Therefore, this act intends to address unequal access by phasing in an expanded definition of basic education to include certain early learning programs for children who are 3 and 4 years old by the 2022-23 school year.
Additionally, the legislature intends to convene a work group to discuss and plan the incorporation of early learning programs into the program of basic education by the 2025-26 school year, and establish a robust, comprehensive system of early learning from birth to age 8.
Section 2 includes recommendations for OSPI and DCYF to:
- Examine the statutory authority, rules, and jurisdiction between K-12 and early learning education systems in order to make recommendations regarding changes or clarifications to the applicable statutes, rules, and jurisdiction that are necessary to implement this act by December 1st, 2022; and
- Report recommendations for a budgeting and funding allocation method, along with a schedule of implementation, for the Basic Education Program of Early Learning by December 1st, 2022.
Section 3 formally establishes the Basic Education Program of Early Learning as a comprehensive program to provide:
- Early childhood education;
- Family support, and;
- Options for parental involvement.
The program is voluntary but must be fully implemented by each public school district by the 2026-27 school year. The phased-in schedule is also detailed in subsections (2) and (3), beginning with school districts with the highest poverty levels beginning in the 2023-24 school year.
Early education services under the program must include:
- Class sizes not to exceed 20 children and to be delivered by lead and assistant teachers who meet qualifications established for early childhood educators;
- A school district-wide annual average of 1,000 instructional hours per school year of direct early childhood education delivered over the course of a minimum of 180 days of scheduled classes; and
- Developmentally appropriate instruction through a planned curriculum.
RCW 28A.150.200 is amended to include the Basic Education Program of Early Learning as basic education, and RCW 43.216.020 is amended to require DCYF to develop and adopt rules, along with OSPI, for administration of the Basic Education Program of Early Learning.