The Legislature faces ongoing challenges to meet its constitutional mandate to fund K-12 education. One education issue with widespread support is the positive impact of the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) in preparing kids for success in school, work, life and even a career in the military.
Twenty-two percent of Washington’s high-schoolers fail to graduate within four years, less than 40 percent of our eighth-graders are proficient in reading and math, and in 2013 approximately 2,000 kindergarten students were held back at an average cost of $5,700 per student, costing taxpayers more than $11 million.
An unprepared workforce is negatively impacting our nation’s military and private sector employers. Sixty-nine percent of 17- to 24-year-olds in Washington are ineligible for military service; one-third are unqualified because they score too low on the military’s basic exam for math, literacy and problem-solving.
The Legislature will add value to K-12 investments by ensuring kids arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. Investing more in ECEAP in the 2016 supplemental budget will help serve some of the 10,000 low-income kids who are eligible but not served due to inadequate funding.
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(Graybill is the retired CEO of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. Valentin is a retired U.S. Navy admiral.)