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City of Bellevue Steps Up as Funding Deficit Impacts Youngest Learners

City of Bellevue Steps Up as Funding Deficit Impacts Youngest Learners

Every year the City of Bellevue staff host a giving campaign with the goal of raising money and resources to support the Bellevue community. This year the giving campaign committee selected to support the youngest learners in the Bellevue School District through a book drive. In partnership with the Bellevue School District preschool program, a list of suggested titles was provided to city staff who could select and purchase culturally responsive age-appropriate materials.

City of Bellevue staff collected hundreds of donations during the campaign, resulting in enough books to be delivered to each district preschool. Through this generous outpouring of support, BSD students can continue to develop early literacy skills through materials that reflect both our district’s global culture and highlight students with varying physical and cognitive abilities. Classroom libraries with high-interest and inclusive texts allow students to see themselves accurately reflected in the books they read.

“As a program we strive to provide inclusive classrooms where all students learn alongside one another. Many of the books donated highlight that vision as well,” states Megan James, preschool curriculum developer for the Bellevue School District.”

Preschool teacher and student
Preschool student at art

Impacts on Youngest Learners

The donation could not come at a more pivotal time, as Washington state’s preschool education system is facing a critical funding shortage, leaving thousands of young learners and their families in uncertainty. Despite the recognized importance of early childhood education in shaping future academic success and social development, the lack of adequate state funding support has hindered access to quality preschool programs across the state.

According to reports from the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families, the demand for preschool far exceeds the available capacity, with many families unable to secure placement for their children due to insufficient funding. This shortage disproportionately affects low-income families, who often rely on publicly funded preschool programs as their primary option for early education.

Early childhood education plays a crucial role in setting the foundation for future academic achievement. Studies have consistently shown that children who attend high-quality preschool programs are more likely to demonstrate improved cognitive skills, language development, and social-emotional competencies compared to their peers who do not have access to such opportunities.

Furthermore, preschool serves to support working parents, enabling them to pursue employment or educational opportunities while knowing their children are receiving quality care and education during the day. Without access to affordable preschool options, many families are forced to navigate balancing work and childcare.

Preschool student at play
Preschool student and adult

Funding Uncertainty Leaves Preschool in the Balance

Advocates for early childhood education have been vocal to increased state funding to address the preschool funding crisis. Organizations such as the Washington State Association of Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) providers have urged policymakers to prioritize investments in preschool education as part of a broader strategy to support children and families.

In response, state lawmakers are considering various proposals aimed at boosting funding for preschool programs, including increased subsidies for low-income families, expansion of publicly funded preschool slots, and incentives to attract and retain qualified early childhood educators.

During the 2022-2023 school year, the Bellevue Schools Foundation supported students who qualify for ECEAP to attend full school day or extended workday preschool programs in the Bellevue School District.

Currently, universal access remains uncertain, as budget negotiations continue amidst competing priorities and fiscal constraints. Investing in preschool today is an investment in the future prosperity and well-being of all of Washington’s children and communities.

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