Murray touts early learning

Senator visits Vancouver program, listens to stories of how efforts get children ready for school

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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Read the text of the Ready to Learn Act: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s322/text

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray touted the Ready to Learn Act and the importance of early childhood education Friday during a visit to Vancouver.

Murray has been traveling around the state talking to early childhood educators, parents and students.

At a roundtable discussion at the Patricia Nierenberg Child Care and Early Learning Center, Murray listened to personal stories of how education in the early years provides benefits to children for their entire lives.

Thorton Chavez of Vancouver is a part-time caregiver for his granddaughter, Joelita Adley, 5. He said he saw marked growth in her development after she started attending a preschool program at Washington Elementary this school year.

"She excelled in leaps and bounds," Chavez said. "She'll be in kindergarten in the fall. She's more than ready for it now. She can read. Count. She knows her ABCs."

The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program preschool at Washington Elementary is administered by Educational Service District 112.

Murray said 80 percent of eligible 4-year-old children in Washington don't attend pre-kindergarten. As a result, they enter kindergarten behind their peers who did attend pre-kindergarten programs.

The new legislation was introduced by Murray and fellow U.S. Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn.; Mark Begich, D-Alaska; and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, in February.

The bill's purpose is "to set the United States on track to ensure children are ready to learn when they begin kindergarten." It would provide funding for states to establish and administer voluntary preschool programs and to expand existing early childhood education programs.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools; susan.parrish@columbian.com.