Washington’s New Governor Reappoints Early Learning Chief, Endorses Early Learning
Gov. Jay Inslee reappointed Dr. Bette Hyde to lead Washington’s Department of Early Learning during the next four years, a critical period when the state will work to ensure that its early learning systems continue to grow and are sustainable.
The new governor had been moving through his appointments since taking office in January, but had not yet announced who would lead the cabinet-level early learning agency. On Tuesday, he tapped Hyde, who oversaw key stages of the construction of the state’s new early learning system and led a successful Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge application during her first four years on the job.
Over the next four years, one of Hyde’s biggest challenges will be to ensure that central early education reforms — a quality rating and improvement system (Early Achievers), kindergarten transition program (WaKIDS) and professional development efforts — take root, especially after large federal grants run dry.
Over the last couple of years, Washington state won an impressive set of federal grants, including two competitive, multi-year awards totaling nearly $27 million for the Home Visiting Services Account and a $60 million Race the Top Early Learning Challenge grant.
“I think the biggest opportunity we have is to wisely invest this federal influx of money that we have,” Hyde said in an interview. “We are not ever going to get this chance again.”
One of the reasons Washington won the Race to the Top grant was because its application was based on expanding and improving existing programs, which should make it easier to sustain that work once the grant ends.
In an era of tight state budgets, though, Hyde will also have to decide how to balance investments between improving quality and expanding access in early education. In addition, she will have to continue defining what quality means in child care, preschool and pre-kindergarten.
“I think our opportunities are to really continue to drive the quality message around early learning,” said Gail Joseph, co-director of the University of Washington’s National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning. “And to really help people re-conceptualize (that) quality means positive outcomes for children and families.”
The federal grants enhanced the state’s ongoing push to create a leading early learning system supported and often led by Gov. Inslee’s predecessor, Gov. Christine Gregoire. Now, Hyde’s reappointment is a good sign that Washington’s new governor, who will play a key role in keeping the efforts moving forward, supports the work.
“Quality early learning is, without question, one of the best investments we can make for our children and our state,” Gov. Inslee said in a statement. “This is one of my top priorities.”
During the next four years, Hyde will also focus on continuing to build Washington’s home visiting programs. Thrive by Five Washington is one of the leaders of home visiting work in Washington. The agency’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is also slated to expand over the next five years, and policymakers may support increased spending on ECEAP.
“Our state-funded preschool program is ranked among the top in the nation, and the Legislature and Governor are considering making serious additional investments in it for the upcoming biennium,” Hyde wrote in a message to DEL staff about her reappointment.
Advocates are hopeful that policymakers will increase funding for the ECEAP program.
Cross posted from Thrive by Five Washington.