Washington State Leading the Way for Kids

Suzette Cruz, third from left, at the 2018 Advocacy Summit.

Last week, Washington State ended its 2018 legislative session. And it was monumental.

State legislators voted to increase funding for home visiting programs by $2.3 million, a more than 40% increase in state funding for this critical service that supports young children and parents. I am grateful to all the legislators who supported that increase and, in particular, for Rep. Tana Senn and Sen. Andy Billig for being champions of the funding. I am also grateful that Sen. Christine Rolfes’ bill to give the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) more flexibility passed the legislature.

Finally, I’d like to thank Rep. Ruth Kagi for her decades-long work to support children and families. Last Thursday, Rep. Kagi announced that she would not seek re-election. She leaves a spectacular legacy of championing kids. She’s sponsored and championed much of the landmark legislation to promote early learning including,

  • The bill to create Washington’s first Department of Early Learning back in 2006
  • The Early Start Act in 2015, which marked the largest-ever increase in state investment in early learning, and
  • The creation of the Department of Children, Youth and Families last year.

While our state legislature had great victories for home visiting and ECEAP flexibility, there’s still a lot of work to do in Washington. Rep. Roger Goodman fought for legislation to increase eligibility for ECEAP, Washington’s state preschool program. Unfortunately, the bill did not pass this year. Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) looks forward to working next session to update ECEAP’s outdated eligibility criteria.

The legislature also left work unfinished by failing to invest in Working Connections for Child Care and Early Achievers. These investments are needed to ensure that early learning providers are properly supported, so our youngest and most vulnerable citizens can have access to high-quality early learning and child care.

SCAN advocates in Washington are committed to continue working for kids. Next week, I will travel with a group of volunteers to our nation’s capital, where we will advocate for early learning for America’s kids and for investments in global health programs that can save the lives of vulnerable women and children around the world. These causes are something that we can all get behind and deserve our investment.

The opportunity to participate in Save the Children and SCAN’s Advocacy Summit and continue the work of our amazing Washington state legislators is empowering. I am proud to show my daughter the importance of advocacy in such a critical time when so many women are using our voices to influence policy and advocate for kids at the national, state and local levels.  

Learn about the work SCAN is doing in Washington

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Suzette Espinoza-Cruz is the SCAN Legislative Action Team Leader in Seattle, WA. Suzette is a former early learning provider who now works for the Seattle Preschool Program. She is a politically-connected community activist who brings strong leadership to SCAN’s advocacy network. After attending the Advocacy Summit in 2017, Suzette was involved in SCAN’s efforts to dedicate revenue from a sweetened beverage tax in Seattle to ECE programs. She connected many parents from the Seattle Preschool Program to this effort by having them contact their city council representative and advocate. She will be attending the 2018 Advocacy Summit in March. 

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