Given our early, deep, and long-time work to help make Preschool for All a reality in Multnomah County, we were asked to join the Washington County effort. Just as in Multnomah County, all young children in Washington County deserve positive early learning experiences that help them develop cognitive and social-emotional skills and prepare them for kindergarten.
Too many children in Washington County – especially children living in poverty, children of color, children whose home language is not English, and children with disabilities – experience barriers when accessing early learning opportunities. Of the 23,091 three- and four-year-old children in the county, 20,875 lack access to affordable preschool*. This places a heavy burden on working families who must navigate the high cost of preschool and child care.
Many of our Community Partners don’t see that boundary as a real component to their work either. The Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), for instance, is looking to launch a preschool in Washington County because that’s where they saw a need, and they found a partner for a facility. And the Center for African Immigrants and Refugee Organization (CAIRO) is already partnering with Beaverton and Hillsboro school districts.
To address the challenges of the under-served preschool population, Northwest Regional Education Service District, along with Washington County’s seven school districts and the Washington County Early Learning Hub, is building a coalition of racially-diverse families, preschool providers, community-based organizations, community advocates, and business leaders to recommend strategies and policies to expand preschool access in Washington County. The coalition is specifically focused on developing policies that:
- Support strong preschool programs
- Address workforce and infrastructure issues
- Identify a sustainable funding source to make preschool free and accessible to all families
The goal is to build a program that is informed by best-practice research and community wisdom while honoring family preferences. The team seeks to leverage learnings and best practices from Multnomah County’s Preschool for All effort, with the goal of building to a successful ballot measure for November, 2022.