Public News Service SEATTLE - Getting children off to the best possible start in life is a community effort - and a new report says states could be doing more to launch children ages eight and younger into successful futures.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation report says family income level often correlates to how ready children are for school, and the gap is wider among Washington's children of color, with fewer than one in five on track to meet developmental milestones.
Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children's Alliance, says it's a question of access - and access takes money and coordination.
"We know what works," he says. "We know that high-quality early childhood education is a key to having children be successful in school. We just need to invest the resources that it takes to make sure that every child who needs access to those programs can actually get access to those programs."
Gould adds the Legislature has done a lot to expand the state's early learning program known as ECEAP, and a task force will make more recommendations by the end of this year.
The Casey Foundation report says by third grade, children who aren't proficient in basic skills such as reading have a hard time catching up. And that's now the case for 27 percent of Washington third-graders.
The report says 330,000 children, or 43 percent of those eight and younger statewide, are growing up in low-income households.
Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy with the Casey Foundation, says that's why supporting children also means finding ways to support their parents.
"Having the flexible work schedule - it's so important," she explains. "Also, things like providing paid sick leave for parents could make a huge, huge difference."
Seattle is currently the only city in the state with a paid time off policy for workers.
The report says states could be doing more to help young, at-risk parents navigate services and programs so that they, and their children, have opportunities to do better in life.