A coalition of early learning and childcare leaders, women’s groups, unions, and advocates for kids and teens has formed the campaign to renew the King County Best Starts for Kids levy on the August primary ballot.
Best Starts for Kids was originally approved by voters in 2015 as a package of investments in programs assisting low-income and historically marginalized families and kids, from healthy pregnancies and early learning through to homelessness prevention and support for at-risk teens and young adults. Addressing the youngest kids, providers participating in the expiring levy completed over 212,000 home visits setting new parents up for success, and kids whose families received home visits showed a 57% improvement in Kindergarten readiness.
In addition, families of nearly 15,000 kids under age 3 received developmental support, and over 70% of those kids show important progress in key developmental areas.
“Every kid in our county deserves a strong start in life,” said Dila Perera, campaign co-chair and Executive Director of Open Arms Perinatal Services. “As we emerge from the pandemic and prioritize equity and recovery, we must renew this life-changing levy, to focus resources on proven programs that help children grow and thrive, and link parents with the childcare and stable assistance needed to build healthy, supportive homes and communities.”
In addition to helping prevent over 10,200 kids and families from suffering homelessness, the levy has funded community-based solutions that helped vulnerable teens stay in school and out of the criminal justice system. To date, 27,000 young people participated in education and employment programs, increasing enrollment by 71%, and 73% of students who completed the Work Training Education program stayed in school, graduated, or enrolled in post-secondary education.
Best Starts partners also worked with over 11,000 youth, parents, teachers, caregivers, and school staff to create safe environments for students facing trauma or adversity, and the County reports that students made over 16,000 visits to Best Starts-funded school-based health centers.
“We know that prevention and early engagement is the most effective, and least expensive way, to ensure positive outcomes for all kids and communities of King County,” said Mike Heinisch, campaign co-chair and former Executive Director of Kent Youth and Family Services. “Best Starts allows for co-creation of programs and partnerships that support children and youth of color to overcome racial injustice, receive mentorship, and secure pathways to future opportunity.”
The renewal builds upon the programs of the current levy, which adds childcare subsidies for over 3000 low-income families, as well as wage and career support for childcare workers, helping build a more stable, better trained workforce for children at a critical age for learning and growth.
“The pandemic disproportionately impacted low income women, pushing them out of the workforce and deepening inequities,” said Karen Hart, President of SEIU 925, representing child care and education workers. “This levy helps thousands of working families get back on their feet, making quality childcare available and affordable, and making sure providers have the resources and wages they need to better support their families—and the kids they work with.”
The Best Starts levy is part of the broader race and social justice initiative launched by King County Executive Dow Constantine to break down economic and institutional barriers to opportunity and success.
“We are proud of the successes of this levy—helping thousands of families and kids get not only a healthy start in life, but the support they need throughout childhood and into early adulthood,” said Constantine. “We are building a model for the nation here in King County, showing how we can prevent family homelessness, keep kids healthy and in school, reduce juvenile interactions with law enforcement and detention, and, with approval this year, provide affordable childcare for families desperately in need of assistance and recovery.”
Learn more at BestStartsForKids.org.
The publication of this press release does not indicate an endorsement of this campaign or the proposition it supports.