The first light of the day greets the Capitol Building for more legislative activity
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)


The “Lost” Capitol. When it was still a Territory, Washington had a different Capitol Building. Where was the original Capitol Building located?

This Week’s Highlights

Action on three of the Initiatives to the Legislature. This week, joint legislative committees held public hearings on three of the six Initiatives to the Legislature:

While each of the initiatives were heard before joint legislative committees (for example, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee and the House Education Committee held a joint hearing on I-2081), each of the Senate and House Committees will meet independently Friday, March 1 in Executive Sessions to take a vote on the initiatives. Using the example of I-2081, the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee will meet in its own Executive Session to consider I-2081 and the House Education Committee will meet separately in its Executive Session to also consider I-2081.

If these initiatives are approved by their respective committees, they will move to the Senate and House Floors for debates and votes there. Those initiatives passed by both bodies will NOT appear on the November general election ballot.

Initiatives to the Legislature are not subject to legislative cutoff deadlines, nor do they require gubernatorial approval. For more information, the Washington State Standard has been covering the hearings on I-2113 (vehicular pursuits), I-2081 (parental rights) and I-2111 (income tax).

Another day, another committee cutoff. In what now feels like weeks ago, Monday, Feb. 26 represented the final committee cutoff – the deadline for bills to pass out of the opposite chamber’s fiscal committee.

For many advocates (including this writer), it made for quite a tense weekend of waiting to see if your beloved bill would make the Monday Executive Session schedule AND receive a vote. The bill that received the most attention was in the Senate Ways and Means Committee where an effort to pass rent stabilization failed to garner sufficient support for passage. Again, our friends at the Washington State Standard captured the issue – and the political implications – in a thorough manner.

“It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” Friday, March 1 at 5 p.m. represents the Opposite House Cutoff. This means that all bills (except those deemed Necessary to Implement the Budget) must be passed by the opposite body.

Maybe it is because so many bills did not make it through the filter this year, but it does feel like the Legislature has a more manageable list of bills to tackle before 5 p.m. on Friday. We again get to play the game of “What is the 5 p.m. bill?” (We really need more entertaining hobbies in this work). Check out the February 16 edition of Notes from Olympia for a description of the 5 p.m. bill concept.

The demise of the rent stabilization bill, as noted above, takes one of the likely options off the table for the Senate’s 5 p.m. bill. In the House, talk is that the “Keep Our Care Act” (ESB 5241) could be their 5 p.m. bill. Supporters argue the Keep Our Care Act will ensure that hospital mergers do not limit access to critical health care.

Check back next week for the riveting conclusion to the question gripping the state of Washington – “What was the 5 p.m. bill?” In the meantime, visit our state policy resources page for the latest status on bills. 

What’s on deck for the final week?

What can we expect? Other than the unexpected, of course!

Finalization and approval of budgets. A major – if not the primary – “to do” in the final week of the legislative session is the release and ultimate approval of the compromise Operating, Capital and Transportation budgets. Typically, this is one of the final acts before adjournment. If you are sitting in the Senate and House galleries watching the Floor debate right now, it is quite common to see budget writers popping on and off the Floor as they continue to iron out budget details. They are working to craft a balanced budget that also garners sufficient support for passage. As part of this process, Senate and House budget negotiators are identifying areas of variance between their two budget approaches and working toward compromise. Again, always with an eye toward a balanced budget that will pass both chambers.

Once the compromise budgets are released, Start Early Washington will update its budget chart with all the details on our state policy resources page.

“Get it right back where we started from.” Just like in the classic Maxine Nightingale song, sometimes you gotta “get it right back where we started from.” (Google the song if you don’t know it – it’s a classic toe tapper!). I’m working hard to spice up the rather dry mechanics of the legislative process, folks!

If a bill has not been amended in the opposite chamber, it can go straight to the Governor for action following passage and signature by the respective leaders. Conversely, when a bill has been amended in the opposite chamber, it must go back to where it started from (I did have a point with the song reference!) so the originating body can give their A-OK on the amendments made in the opposite chamber. This process is called “concurrence.” Much of the last week of the legislative session will focus on the Senate and House concurring on the opposite chamber’s amendments. There are occasions when there is disagreement over the direction the bill has taken in the opposite chamber, and there are steps in place to address when this occurs.

“So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu.” This classic song from “The Sound of Music” feels very appropriate right now. At the end of every two-year legislative session, it is customary for lawmakers to announce retirements. Sometimes legislators are retiring from elected office altogether while others might be seeking an office different from the State Legislature.

We are starting to see the retirement announcements roll out, including from freshman House Republican Spencer Hutchins from the 26th legislative district in Kitsap County. Last week, Representative Hutchins announced he would not seek reelection to the Legislature due to the impact holding office has had on his family and business. On Wednesday, former House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, who has served the 2nd legislative district representing parts of Pierce and Thurston counties since 2011, shared his plans to retire at the conclusion of his term.

During the last week of session, we will see time set aside in the Senate and House for lawmakers to honor and thank their departing colleagues for their contributions.

SINE DIE is March 7 – the end is near! In Latin, “Sine Die” literally means “without day.” What that means in the legislative context is there is no day designated on which the Legislature will resume its activities (until the next year).

During the legislative session, when the Senate and House officially adjourn each day, they announce their return. So, when the Senate adjourned last night, they announced the Senate was adjourned until 9 a.m. Friday, March 1, the 54th legislative day. Sine Die is the one day they do not announce a return date.

What Sine Die means for those involved in the legislative process either as a legislator, staff, advocates or other interested parties, is we can take a second to breathe and catch up on some much-needed sleep.

It might be Sine Die, but the work is not quite done. As we near the end of session, everyone is eager to get their bills approved by both chambers (relatively intact), signed by the House Speaker and Senate President and to the desk of the Governor for his hopeful signature. Of course, bills are not considered “law” if they don’t get the Governor’s “John Hancock.”

The timing of when the Governor must act on bills that reach his desk is connected to the timing of when they are delivered to his desk. In short, there are two main rules:

  • Any bill that is delivered to the Governor’s office when there are MORE THAN five days before the legislative session ends, becomes a “5-day bill”—that is, the Governor must act upon it within five days.
  • Any bill that is delivered to the Governor’s office when there are FEWER than five days remaining in the legislative session, becomes a “20-day bill”—the Governor must act upon it within 20 days.

Like with any rule, there are exceptions! One exception involves how the days are counted. Per the Governor’s office website, these time periods are counted using calendar days, not business days. Even Saturdays and state holidays are included in the count! But Sundays are not included.

Much like with babies, the key detail in this process is the delivery date, meaning the day the bill shows up at the Governor’s office. For example, a bill may have passed Feb. 29, but due to need for leadership signatures, it may not be delivered to the Governor’s office until March 2, so it becomes a 20-day bill because of when it was delivered.

Today, March 1, is the cutoff for 5-day bills. So, if you’re eagerly awaiting Governor Inslee’s signature, here’s to hoping your bill(s) was delivered to his office today!

How to track the status of bill signings? Governor Inslee’s website contains a bill action section that will include updates on scheduled bill actions and note actions taken to date. Most of the bill activity will occur in the Governor’s conference room in the Legislative Building but sometimes a bill signing will be scheduled at a relevant location off-campus, such as a school for an education-related bill.

If you’re *really* excited about a bill getting signed and want to see its signature ceremony, the best way to watch is on TVW. Bill sponsors are afforded a few invitations, but unfortunately bill signings have been closed to the public since the pandemic.

Trivia Answer

The first Capitol Building, also known as the Territorial Capitol, was located on the current Capitol campus between what we now know as the Legislative Building and the Insurance Building.

“X” Marks the Spot of the Original Capitol Building for the Washington Territory
Map courtesy: Washington State Department of Enterprise Services (edited by Start Early WA)

The Territory Capitol Building was originally a small structure built out of wood in 1856, paid for using federal funding. Although it was understood to be a temporary location, legislators (among others) complained about the location because they thought it was too far out of the way. The building was just a tad smaller than our Legislative Building today, measuring only 40 by 60 feet. The first floor held a “hall” for the House of Representatives and two small committee rooms. The upper floor housed the Council (Senate), two additional committee rooms and a Territorial library. 75 delegates worked from the building.

Apparently, it was already falling apart by 1874 (including rotting and sinking floors), and Congress gave the state $5,000 for repairs (which were completed), but there was a push for an entirely new building in the 1890s. The original Capitol building was abandoned in 1905 and destroyed in 1911. The State Board of Control wanted it to get demolished for free, but not surprisingly, the construction workers wanted to be paid for their labor. Eventually, W. J. Giggey and J. W. Relf of Olympia made an offer to knock down the original Capitol Building and accept the scrap lumber as payment—this offer was accepted. Construction on the current Capitol Campus began in 1912 and the Capitol Building we know today, was completed in 1927.

After the first Capitol Building was torn down, the Legislature met in the Old State Capitol Building in downtown Olympia from 1905 to 1928 (this building is now the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction). Sadly, the Old State Capitol Building caught fire in 1928. The Tacoma Fire Department responded as quickly as they could to the fire (although they got stuck in weekend traffic) and the community helped save the valuables inside, including stuffed and mounted animals on display in the lobby. According to History Link, “all the records and files were saved, but some were water soaked.” While taxidermy wouldn’t have been my first thought to save, it’s great that important documents and these items were preserved.

To contextualize the timing: Washington was created from the larger Oregon territory on March 2, 1853, and officially accepted to the Union on November 11, 1889. At the time, Washington state was going to be called the “Territory of Columbia,” but Representative Richard H. Stanton pointed out that people might confuse it with the nation’s capital territory at the time, Territory of Columbia (now the District of Columbia). While he did make a valid point, perhaps ironically, we did not escape the confusion with the nation’s capital, as we still need to clarify Washington state versus Washington D.C., the city.

The original Capitol Building in the snow (1911)
(Photo Credit: Washington State Archives via Olympia Historical Society
& Bigelow House Museum)


Abandoned Territorial Campus in the Snow [Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum]
Fire damages Old State Capitol Building in Olympia on September 8, 1928 []
Territorial Capitol 2/5/17 [Olympia Historical Society and Bigelow House Museum]
Lost Landmark: Washington’s “Temporary” Territorial and First State Capitol [Thurston Talk]

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Start Early is committed to advancing systems in which all children and their families have access to an uninterrupted continuum of equitable, comprehensive and responsive services from before birth through age five. Systems building is intense and challenging work because early childhood services and funding streams are fragmented, under-resourced, and historically inequitable. Start Early Consulting supports public sector leaders and advocates to ensure that early childhood systems are high-quality and aligned, resourced to be sustainable, and designed to serve children and families from historically marginalized communities.

Blue Meridian Partners recently invested in Start Early’s ability to build a sustainable consulting practice, and to provide consulting services pro bono to promote equity and quality in state and community systems. In summer 2023, we launched the Impact Initiative and put out a call for applications from public sector leaders and advocates in need of support with systems-level challenges focused on two key policy areas: home visiting and children with disabilities and developmental delays. Start Early brings deep policy and program experience and expertise in these areas and they represent services and families which are often under-served and isolated from broader early childhood systems work.

Systems leaders from across the country submitted 40 applications for support, leading to consulting engagements in a diverse set of eight states across the country: California, Colorado, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas. Our Consulting team of former advocates, government leaders, program leaders, teachers and home visitors bring diverse lived and professional experiences to the initial cohort of state and local leaders to solve pressing policy and advocacy challenges.

For example, Start Early Consulting is supporting the Kentucky Early Intervention Providers Association (KEIPA), a new advocacy organization with a mission of supporting and advocating for the families they serve and the providers who serve them. KEIPA and Start Early will be partnering to create a 2024 policy agenda focused on increasing funding for critical Early Intervention services for young children and to build KEIPA’s capacity as a statewide early childhood advocacy leader in Kentucky.

Blue Meridian’s place-based, outcomes-focused approach to catalytic investments will improve the lives of children and families in these eight states and strengthen Start Early’s capacity to support additional systems leaders in the future. Learn more about Start Early Consulting on our website and please share widely with state and community leaders who could benefit from partnership with us.

Blue Meridian Partners is a pioneering philanthropic model for finding and funding scalable solutions to problems that limit economic and social mobility for America’s young people and families in poverty.

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Through just this one simple act you are bonding with your child, inspiring a love of reading—and are helping them develop strong early language and literacy skills that will become the foundation for their future learning and success. In fact, studies show that reading aloud is a primary driver of young children’s early language development.

To help you and your child get the most out of your storytime while celebrating Read Across America Day at home, here are 12 early literacy tips from our early learning experts at Start Early and our Educare Chicago school:

  1. Start early. Reading to babies is important for healthy brain development and lays the foundation for language and writing skills.
  2. Make reading a part of your daily routine. Establishing a routine helps ensure that reading is part of your daily schedule, such as at naptime and bedtime. It also creates times during the day that both of you can look forward to.
  3. Try board and cloth books for babies. By age 1, babies can grab books.  Board and cloth books are great options for babies who like to touch things and put everything in their mouths.
  4. Take turns with your toddler. By age 2, toddlers can hold a book and point at the pictures. Let your toddler turn the pages of a board book and respond to her when she points or reacts to the story.
  5. Ask your child questions. As you read to your child, make the experience interactive by asking him questions, such as “What do you think will happen next?” “What was your favorite part of the story? Why?”
  6. Reread your child’s favorite books. By age 3, children can complete sentences in familiar stories. Read her favorite books over and over to help her learn through repetition.
  7. Point out similar words. By age 4, children begin to recognize letters. You can point out words in a book that begin with the same letter to your preschooler to help him become familiar with the letter and begin to associate certain words with that letter.
  8. Count objects on the page. As you read to your child, count objects on the page together to help her also strengthen her early math skills.
  9. Have your preschooler tell you the story. By age 5, children can sit still for longer books and can create their own stories based on the pictures. Ask your preschooler to tell you the basic plot of the book or to make up stories based on what he sees on each page.
  10. Read with passion! Using inflection and maintaining the same highs and lows in your voice at the same point in a story helps your child begin to remember the words.
  11. Set an example. Let your child see you reading your books to help her develop her own love of reading.
  12. Just keep reading. Reading to your child helps him develop a habit of listening to stories and loving books. One the most important pieces of advice is to make sure you are reading to him early and often.

No matter how old your child is — from babies to toddlers to preschoolers — these tips will help you capitalize on this valuable time with your child, making reading a fun, educational and memorable experience for both of you.

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The Legislative Building awaits another busy week
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)


The Humble Bivalve. HB 1984 by Representative Mike Chapman would designate which clam as the official clam of Washington state?

Spoiler alert: This bill was pre-filed before the legislative session, but it didn’t make it out of committee. Perhaps it will “mussel” its way through the Legislature in another year.

Highlights of the Week

Potato Day! The potatoes this year really hit the spot, and you can tell the people on campus love these sponsored food days. Thank you to the Washington State Potato Commission!

Potato Day!
(Photo Credit: Zoë Erb)

Caseload Forecast

On Friday, Feb. 16, the Washington State Caseload Forecast Council released its updated caseload forecast. These caseload forecasts project expected caseloads for entitlement programs ranging from K-12 education to public assistance to corrections. Budget writers use this data to inform their budgets.

In terms of early learning, the following are updated forecasted caseloads:

Narratives accompanying the caseload forecasts and analyses of note (including any risks to the forecasts) are as follows:

  • Transition to Kindergarten (TTK). TTK has been more popular in smaller school districts and rural communities, and less common in certain areas such as King County. Risks to the forecast include variance depending upon the month in which a school district starts its TTK program. The narrative also notes TTK is a newer program, which makes forecasting future caseloads more challenging.
  • ECEAP. The narrative notes that nearly all of the enrollment growth for ECEAP in the 2022-23 school year was from children who were not “entitlement eligible” (meaning children who meet eligibility to participate under rules adopted by DCYF, not those eligible by income). The forecast also finds enrollment has been higher in the 2023-24 school year than in the 2022-23 year.
  • Working Connections Child Care. The forecast accounts for recently enacted legislation that builds on the Fair Start for Kids Act and further expands eligibility for Working Connections Child Care. There is also assumed continued recovery from the pandemic in terms of child care usage.
  • Early Achievers Subsidy Providers. The forecasted growth in Early Achievers Subsidy Providers should have an asterisk next to it because it represents the use of a new system to track number of providers. With this new system, we should have a more accurate count of the number of licensed providers participating in Early Achievers going forward. One particular item of note is the assumption that the increased enrollment of new providers is being driven by recent increases in reimbursement rates, particularly those for family child care providers.

Supplemental Budget Updates. Earlier this week, the Senate and House released their Operating and Capital budgets (as well as Transportation budgets). The released documents reflect more of a traditional supplemental budget approach, with the limited new investments focused on high priority, time sensitive items such as fentanyl response, housing and the overall workforce crisis.

Start Early Washington shared a side-by-side comparison of the various – and varying – approaches to the Operating and Capital budgets proposed by the Senate, House, and the Governor that impact early learning, on our state policy resources page. The side-by-side comparison chart highlights how the bodies invested quite differently in early learning. With just 13 days left in the official legislative session, the clock is ticking for the two bodies to come to an agreement on their differences and settle on final budgets that will garner sufficient votes for passage.

We will continue to update the budget summary comparison chart as the process continues. We expect the Senate and House to pass their respective Operating budgets over the coming weekend.

One important tip to remember: it is protocol for the initially released budgets to include funding for bills passed out of the House of Origin. Typically, funding for a House bill would be included in the House budget, but not in the Senate budget, and visa versa. There are pros and cons to this approach in that each body’s budget holds “space” for funding of bills, but it also means – particularly in tighter fiscal years – there will likely need to be cuts during the negotiations to accommodate the funding of all of the bills that will make their way through the process.

Bills, Bills, Bills! Weds, Feb. 21 represented the final policy committee cutoff. Most early learning-related bills were heard – and approved – by the policy committee cutoff deadline. Start Early Washington updated its bill tracker on our state policy resources page to reflect the latest versions.

Continuing the theme of “no rest until interim” (sung to the tune of “no sleep till Brooklyn”), Thursday morning saw the start (again!) of marathon fiscal committee hearings in advance of the Feb. 26 opposite chamber fiscal committee cutoff. (Yet another weekend of work. Oh, joy.) And then it’s back to the floor where the bodies will consider bills from the opposite chamber. PHEW!

What’s on Deck for Next Week?

Hearings on Three Initiatives

This week, Democratic leadership announced public hearings on three of the six certified Initiatives to the Legislature Feb. 27-28, with the remaining three initiatives destined for voter determination in the November general election.

Scheduled public hearings include:

  • Initiative 2111 relating to limiting the ability of state and local governments to impose an income tax, will be heard in a Joint Hearing by the Senate Ways and Means and the House Finance Committees Feb. 27 at 12:30 p.m.
  • Initiative 2081 concerning parental rights and their children’s public school education, will be heard in a Joint Hearing by the Senate Early Learning and K-12 and the House Education Committees Feb. 28 at 8 a.m.
  • Initiative 2113 relating to vehicular pursuits by police officers, will be heard in a Joint Hearing by the Senate Law and Justice and the House Community Safety, Justice, & Reentry Committee Feb. 28 at 9 a.m.

Speculation around the Capitol campus is that following these public hearings, the Senate and House will vote to accept these three Initiatives to the Legislature, so they will not go before the voters.

There is question about how consideration of these initiatives will factor into the typical end-of-session busyness involving budget resolution, final passage of bills and concurrence in amendments made in the opposite chamber. One thing can be said about Olympia – it is never boring!

The remaining three initiatives still slated to head to the November ballot are:

The Feb. 16 edition of the Washington State Standard has a great piece by Jerry Cornfield covering the ins and outs of this issue. And refer to our Jan. 19 edition of Notes From Olympia for more information on the six initiatives and the initiative process.

Trivia Answer

A side-by-side of the razor clam and the geoduck
(Photo Credit: via The Columbian)

Had Representative Chapman’s HB 1984 passed, the Pacific razor clam, aka the Siliqua patula, would have become the official state clam.

HB 1984 includes the statistic that people in Washington have harvested over 8 million clams annually in recent years, and that clam digging is an important activity—not just in terms of fun, but also as a source of food and cultural significance.

According to the Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Pacific razor clam is one of the “most sought after shellfish” in the state. The Department even developed this handy-dandy guide for clam digging. If you decide to try your hand at clam digging, be sure to check for any current razor clam season information, as well as the rules and regulations for sport fishing.

If this bill seems familiar, it’s because we’ve seen it before, but in a different form. Former Representative Brian Blake and current Representative Jim Walsh sponsored HB 1061 which was heard in both 2019 and 2020, but it didn’t quite make it to the finish line.

The Seattle Times credits the original effort to designate a state clam to David Berger, who wrote “Razor Clams: Buried Treasure of the Pacific Northwest” and lobbied lawmakers for the designation. The Times also informed its readers that Berger was so passionate about this issue that he contacted Kelli Hughes-Ham, a sixth grade teacher at Hilltop Middle School in Ilwaco, Pacific County. She used the bill as an opportunity to teach her students about the legislative process, and her class made posters to encourage lawmakers to designate the razor clam as the official state clam. This is not unlike the efforts of Amy Cole’s former fourth grade class to make the Suciasaurus Rex the official state dinosaur, which Governor Inslee finally signed into law after a multi-year effort in 2023.

One of the sixth grade lobbyist posters in support of the Pacific razor clam
(Photo Credit: Kelli Hughes-Ham, courtesy of the Seattle Times)

Perhaps one of the reasons these bills haven’t made it to the governor’s desk is because this has become a hot topic at the Legislature—a battle of the bivalve mollusks if you will. Governor Inslee even referenced this heated debate at an event this week, saying that the Legislature shouldn’t rest until we have an official state clam!

While the Pacific razor clam has supporters, the geoduck is still a formidable opponent. Members of the House’s State Government and Tribal Relations Committee wanted to be sure to give proponents of the geoduck an opportunity to have their say as well. Both geoducks and clams are members of the bivalve mollusk family. For those of you who may need to Google it (I know I did), bivalve mollusks “have an external covering that is a two-part hinged shell that contains a soft-bodied invertebrate” according to the National Ocean Service. In this instance, an invertebrate is simply an animal that does not have a backbone. (This is just begging for a joke about politicians and backbones.)

Although the geoduck is already the school mascot of the Evergreen State College, we can see the argument for designating it as the state clam as well. Geoduck aquaculture is alive and well, frequenting approximately 200 square acres of tidelands in our state. Much of that tideland is privately owned, but the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has explored whether publicly owned state-lands could host geoduck farms. Washingtonians are not the only geoduck fans; they are a delicacy in Asia and can fetch a rate of up to $125 per pound. DNR reported in 2020 that the state exports around 11 million pounds each year. Clearly it plays a huge role in the state economy, and it is also allegedly the biggest shellfish found on Washington beaches.

What do you think our official state clam should be? If you have strong feelings, please let your lawmakers know (and us at Start Early WA – we’re quite curious)!

Geoduck Aquaculture [Department of Natural Resources]
Razor clams, geoducks battle to be WA’s top clam [The Columbian]
Razor clams, geoducks battle to be WA’s top clam [The Seattle Times]
Razor clam seasons and beaches [Department of Fish & Wildlife]
Suciasaurus rex becomes official Washington state dinosaur after Gov. Inslee signs bill [NBC Right Now]

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“One… two… three…” you say as you count your baby’s toys for them. Even though your baby can’t solve equations, let alone speak, they are building early math and language skills with each number they hear.

And you don’t need to stop at numbers — there are many early math concepts that you can introduce to your young child, simply through language, play and reading books.

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Here are some fun Pi Day activity ideas to help introduce early math concepts to your child:

  • Discover geometry: Shapes are a big part of geometry. Labeling different shapes — from squares to circles to stars — will help your child start to associate the words with the shapes, setting the early foundation of geometry. With toddlers and preschoolers, look at two- and three-dimensional shapes, so they can see how each object looks and functions. Blocks in different shapes are a great tool to use for this.
  • Play with volume: If you cook in the kitchen, you are already using volume. For babies and toddlers, start by using words like teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, pint and quart while you are cooking to get them familiar with the terms. Preschoolers can help you measure out ingredients using measuring cups and spoons. You can play fun games that teach incremental volume: how many tablespoons does it take to fill a quarter cup? How many cups go into your quart measuring cup?
  • Use comparisons: Many math lessons will involve word problems and comparisons as early as kindergarten. The more familiarity that your child has with comparison terms, the easier it will be for them to understand the word problems. You can create opportunities for your child to learn to compare by using toys of different sizes and words like more, less, lighter, heavier, bigger and smaller.
  • See how tall they are: By the time they are preschoolers, most children become interested in how tall and how heavy they are. One idea to help talk about height is to chart their growth on a wall, showing how tall they are each year. For preschoolers, you can also begin to introduce units of measurement like inches and feet by helping your child use a ruler to measure how much they have grown.
  • Reading books: Reading is an excellent way of introducing math language and concepts to your child. Books are a natural entry point that make learning math fun in the early years. Engaging your child in the math in storybooks build on their interest, discoveries and questions. Here are some great children’s book recommendations that are full of wonderful math concepts:

Through simple language and play, young children will start to learn essential early math and STEM skills. And remember, especially for babies and toddlers, just hearing these words early and often helps plant the seed for your future mathematician.

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On January 19, 2024, Start Early and the Educare Network submitted comments to the Office of Head Start (OHS) in response to its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) related to changes to the Head Start Program Performance Standards. The proposed changes reflect important potential changes centered around improving workforce compensation and benefits, integrating mental services more broadly in programs, and enhancing program quality initiatives focused on engaging families, health and safety, and better meeting community needs.

The submitted comments represent feedback from over 150 staff and parent leaders across Start Early and Educare schools. Overall, both Start Early and Educare Network organizations applaud these efforts to promote quality through support for the workforce and recommend OHS provide additional guidance to programs on the implementation of the proposed changes. As one staff member noted, “These changes seem to be a big step in creating equitable and inclusive educational programs for students, families and staff. It supports teaching staff’s wellbeing and keeping them from burnout, while also creating more opportunities for families furthest from educational justice.”

Additionally, in order to fully realize the benefits of the proposed updates to the performance standards, Start Early and the Educare Network encouraged OHS to consider the significant resources that programs will need to successfully enact these changes and also to address the need for a more urgent timeline for these changes given the current workforce crisis. Download the full text of the letter below.

For any questions on the comments, please reach out to Nadia Gronkowski at

While the idea of “history” may be outside the understanding of a very young child, we can still celebrate Women’s History Month with them by reading books together that celebrate the potential and achievements of girls and women.

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Young children are constantly learning about the world and what is possible for them. Themed history months offer a wonderful opportunity to take stock of your home or classroom library and ask yourself: am I presenting a rich view of the world? Am I offering children ideas and possibilities? Am I fostering a strong sense of self, and an openness towards difference? Books are windows and mirrors, they can reflect children’s own lives, and they can offer glimpses into the lives of others. Women’s History Month presents us with a wonderful opportunity to explore the infinite paths a child might choose to pursue, regardless of gender.

When you select a new book to read with your child, choose something you think you will also enjoy. Your enthusiasm will be catching! Look for books with features that appeal to young children’s imaginations—not too many words on each page, rhythmic or rhyming text and illustrations that invite wonder. The books below are chosen for their appealing texts, rich illustrations and simple—but not simplistic—concepts. While the titles are sorted by age, all the books for the youngest readers will work with preschool-aged children also, and some, (like I Am Enough,) are books you might want to read even without a small child at your side! A high-quality picture-book with beautiful illustrations works for every age, (including adults!) because images are texts that foster meaning-making.

Children’s Books to Read During Women’s History Month

Whether your child is a toddler, in pre-K or on their way to kindergarten, here are some great book recommendations from Anne-Marie Akin, our Educare Chicago librarian to read during this month and beyond:

Books recommended for infants:

Books recommended for toddlers:

Books recommended for children in pre-K or kindergarten:

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Start Early thanks Illinois Governor JB Pritzker for again demonstrating his continued commitment to young children and their families by proposing a Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) state budget that includes funding increases for preschool, child care, Early Intervention and evidence-based home visiting programs as part of his multi-year Smart Start Illinois initiative. These increases are urgently needed to serve more children, invest in the early childhood workforce, and strengthen quality in Illinois programs. We also applaud Governor Pritzker for addressing racial disparities in maternal health care and the administration’s proposal to establish a child tax credit focused on our youngest children.   

The governor also highlighted his signature legislative proposal for the spring session, the creation of the Department of Early Childhood (SB3777/HB5451). Establishing the new agency in law is an important step in our work to transform the state’s early childhood system so it works better for children, families and providers alike. 

That said, Start Early is very concerned about the funding level proposed for the Early Intervention (EI) program. Record levels of service delays continue to plague the program, delays linked inextricably to a shrinking workforce. Without annual rate increases, we know providers will continue to leave the program, meaning more infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays will wait for months to receive the life-changing services they are entitled to by law. 

“To build the early childhood system our youngest learners deserve, it’s our belief that Illinois must approve significant increases in state funding every year for the core programs and services that infants, toddlers and preschoolers need,” said Ireta Gasner, Start Early vice president of Illinois policy.  “We thank Governor Pritzker for his thoughtful budget approach and look forward to working with the Illinois General Assembly to enact a budget that funds Smart Start Illinois and doesn’t leave infants and toddlers with disabilities and delays behind.” 

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The FY25 budget proposal includes the following funding proposals:  

  • $75 million increase for preschool services and prenatal-to-age 3 programs (11.1% over FY 2024) to create 5,000 new preschool slots and expand the Prevention Initiative (PI) program 
  • $5 million increase for evidence-based home visiting programs (21.8% over FY 2024) to serve hundreds of additional families and to increase wages for the incumbent workforce 
  • $158.5 million increase for Smart Start Workforce Compensation Grants to replace expiring federal funds and for the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to accommodate caseload growth (27.3% over FY 2024) 
  • $6 million increase for the Early Intervention program(3.8% over FY 2024) to accommodate expected caseload growth
    • Start Early and our advocate partners requested $40 million in new funding for the EI program. We strongly urge the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to increase provider reimbursement rates and wages for service coordinators Service delays are largely caused by provider shortages, and rates of delay are higher now than last year. A significant percentage of providers have indicated they would leave the program if additional rate increases were not approved in FY25.  
  • $5 million in state funding for the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE) initiative for scholarships to replace expiring federal funds 
    • Start Early and our advocate partners requested $60 million in new state funding for ECACE to continue the program in its current form. Increased compensation and access to higher education are foundational to addressing early childhood workforce challenges.  

The budget also includes $13.2 million to seed the creation of the Department of Early Childhood. We agree with the administration that, if done well, a consolidated early childhood state agency will improve the experiences for families and programs alike. We look forward to engaging with the administration in the work ahead. 

Start Early is also eager to work with the Illinois General Assembly to approve an FY25 budget this spring that includes, at a minimum, the funding proposals laid out today and provides more significant increases for Early Intervention and ECACE scholarships. 

Join Start Early in calling on our state legislature to prioritize our youngest learners today and during this new legislative session.Our babies can’t wait. 

Focusing on the Needs of Early Childhood Professionals

The word “innovation” can be perceived as a buzz word. We see it everywhere – in job descriptions, in resumes, organizational websites, etc. and people almost instinctively pay attention to it. And rightfully so… it’s desirable to think of new ways of doing something, especially if it saves time, human effort, and money.

And yet, I often wonder if designing relevant and engaging professional learning for today’s early childhood educators is a matter of innovation, or rather a matter of focusing on the learner and what matters most to them.

The field of adult learning has provided some principles about how adults learn…and there have been research studies to confirm these. I like to think of these as conditions that we can create to center the needs of adult learners. Here’s a few of them:

  • Give learners choice
  • Respect learners and meet them where they are
  • Show, don’t tell them
  • Let learners practice
  • Make it relevant

These conditions that support adult learning help us shift our focus from what we want (learning designers, subject matter experts, etc.), to what learners need. In my work at Start Early, we’re focusing on learner needs through centering equity using inclusive facilitation and offering microlearning.

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Educators’ time seems to be shrinking by the year as the needs of children and families grow. Microlearning is a flexible strategy that supports ongoing, meaningful professional learning while lessening time requirements for learners.

This year, Start Early launched microlearning modules for its evidence-based framework – The Start Early Essentials. We designed six accessible, introductory microlearning modules to create a critical knowledge base for teams in under 15 minutes per module. It’s called The Essential Microlearnings.

  • Accessible: the language is straightforward, they feature interactive components, and the design follows best practices for adult learning.
  • Practical: first, learners acquire a basic understanding of each Essential, then they explore real-world examples of it in action, and by the end of the module they start building an action plan to improve their own practice.
  • Flexible: they provide a useful knowledge base on their own and they pair well with live trainer sessions, communities of practice, and coaching for comprehensive year-round professional learning.

Centering Equity

I’ve been part of many discussions this year about the poor state of black maternal health in the U.S. These discussions about interpersonal biases and differential treatment of people based on race, and how they contribute to poor maternal and infant health, underscore the importance and urgency of our collective work to design, develop, and deliver professional learning through the lens of equity.

One of the predominant ways we’re doing this is through inclusive facilitation. We’re shifting away from the expertise of the trainer and towards the lived experience of the learner/professional.

We’re also making a concerted effort to elevate parent and caregiver voice through stories that build learner empathy and are introducing counternarratives to interrupt learner implicit bias.

We know we can’t solve every problem in early childhood through professional learning, but I’m hopeful that we can create professional learning that early childhood educators find engaging, relevant, and inclusive, and challenges them to show up in meaningful ways to the communities they serve.

Below are summaries of blogs that we issued in 2023 that highlight some of the things that we’re focusing on.

Unconscious Bias & Colorism

This blog shares insights on how unconscious bias influences policy, programs, and overall decision-making processes.

ParentChild+ Washington State Program Director, Pamela Williams, reflects on her experience at the 18th World Congress for the World Association for Infant Mental Health in Dublin, Ireland. Focused on Equity and Social Justice in Infant Mental Health, Pamela led a session exploring the Residual Effects of Colorism and the Impacts of Implicit Bias in Decision Making.

Nurturing Cultural Identity

Alex’s story echoes through the broader mission of home visitors, who actively support families in embracing and preserving their unique cultural identities.

In honor of Indigenous Peoples Day, Alex Patricelli, Start Early Washington’s Training and Technical Assistance Specialist, reflects on the cultural journey she shared with her sons during the 2023 Paddle to Muckleshoot. 

Strengthening Family Engagement

Camille’s blog emphasizes the significance of taking small, intentional steps to achieve large goals.

Camille Carlson, Start Early Washington’s Quality Improvement and Innovation Manager is at the forefront of fostering Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) in home visiting services statewide. Guiding professionals through individual and group coaching, she draws on her personal experience as a parent supported by home visitors, and views family as central to her work. 

Successes & Lessons Learned

Explore our transformative work in Washington state.

In our ongoing efforts to strengthen family engagement and retention in home visiting programs, this blog uncovers valuable insights from our work with home visiting professionals. Such as prioritizing the quality of relationships and tailoring strategies to families’ preferences, home visiting programs can effectively nurture engagement and retention, ultimately contributing to positive lifelong outcomes for children and families.

Reaching Beyond Numbers

Anna’s blog shares how she navigates data to highlight subtle differences in home visiting experiences, ultimately strengthening programs and fostering inclusive co-creative learning opportunities.

Anna Contreras, Program Analyst for Start Early Washington, leverages her Latinx background and personal experiences as a second-generation immigrant to enhance home visiting programs. Her commitment to inclusivity is rooted in her mother’s positive experience with home visiting during Anna’s childhood.