To the Editor,
This year voters in Whatcom County have an opportunity to support kids — making sure children under 5 have access to early learning in every corner of the county, and that vulnerable and at-risk children and families get more help.
I saw firsthand how important this help is. When working at the elementary level as a school counselor early in my career, a key part of my role was supporting our teachers as they assessed and launched our new kindergartners.
Children arrived at kindergarten with very different levels of preparation and exposure to early learning opportunities. Today those differences are even more pronounced.
Some arrived with extensive child care and pre-school preparation, some with no exposure to structured early childhood education of any kind, and some with whatever was possible to acquire, given the realities of access and family and work demands.
Parents then and now continue to do the very best they can, given family resources. But it’s only gotten harder.
In most families, both parents need to work. The days of one parent staying home and the other going off to provide for the family are no longer financially viable, or necessarily professionally preferred.
How their children spend their parents’ work hours is vitally important to their future trajectories.
Many parents are increasingly strapped economically, stressed and stretched thin. Add an isolating pandemic, limited, or no affordable child care options, and you have a situation where families struggle to stay strong and healthy.
Today, data shows that fewer than half of our Whatcom County kindergartners walk through those classroom doors ready to learn, and that number drops to 25 percent for our students of color. The implications of these numbers are profound.
Research tells us that 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs between the ages of 0-5. This window of opportunity is critical and lays the foundation for all the years that follow. Early childhood education has an enormous impact on outcomes for children: they are more likely to read by 3rd grade and that predicts high school graduation rates, access to post-high school options, and incarceration rates.
Whatcom County has a tremendous opportunity to support our kids and improve our collective future.
Proposition 5, the Children’s Initiative, will help provide additional, much-needed, quality childcare and preschool slots, as well as critical supports for our most vulnerable families.
Please vote YES for Whatcom Kids on November 8.
To learn more, go to: YesWhatcomKids.com.