Nearly 200 homeless children are waiting for placement into Washington State subsidized preschool programs for low income families. The holdup: it would cost about $2 million to make space for them. Currently the state legislature is unable to fund expansion of the program to allow placement of the children into the program despite their eligibility.
Homeless children are defined under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” This includes children who are sleeping in a shelter, on a friend’s couch or in a motel.
Washington’s Head Start preschool program, founded in 1985, provides children from families at or below 110% of the federal poverty level with nutrition, health, education and other services. Program participants are three and four-year-old children. Children who do not qualify based on their income may also qualify if they possess special needs or live in disruptive homes due to addiction, imprisoned parents or other extenuating circumstances exist. The benefits and stability of the programs are significant as they greatly boost kindergarten readiness for the children the programs serve.
Those waiting for preschool slots extend beyond homeless children. In fact, there are close to 2700 children currently on the waitlist for the preschool program. It is troubling to think that the most helpless and at risk children in our state are not provided with this elemental assistance. The full story is available at http://www.seattletimes.com/education-lab/nearly-200-homeless-kids-waiting-for-spot-in-states-preschool-program/
Ken Selander is a child injury attorney and advocate for children’s rights. He practices in the Columbia City neighborhood of South Seattle.