Occasionally, Start Early Washington team members are honored with opportunities for thought leadership on a global scale. In this blog, ParentChild+ Washington State Program Director, Pamela Williams shares a few thought-provoking insights from her recent presentation at the 18th World Congress for the World Association for Infant Mental Health in Dublin, Ireland.

A Global Stage for Equity & Social Justice

In July 2023, Pamela Williams joined a global panel discussion 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. Joining co-presenters from Canada, Australia and the U.S., Pamela led a session exploring the Residual Effects of Colorism and the Impacts of Implicit Bias in Our Decision Making. This presentation provided a unique opportunity for practitioners to reflect on how unconscious bias affects decision making in their field.

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Unpacking the Impact of Colorism

Colorism is favoring individuals with lighter skin over those with darker skin. It has deep-rooted consequences, resulting in disproportionate access to resources and preferential treatment, perpetuating societal ideals of beauty, success and alignment with a specific image.

Challenging Unconscious Bias

Pamela emphasized, “While we know that racism is systemic, it is important to understand how colorism shows up without us knowing.” She highlighted how colorism reinforces white supremacy and operates as an unconscious bias that influences decisions related to policy, programs, curriculum, resources, materials we select, who we hire and overall decision making.

Colorism sits right there – and while you may not see the varied hues of who represents a community, the decisions we make do.

Pamela Williams, ParentChild+ Washington State Program Director
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Exploring Colorism in Media & Society

Pamela led her audience through a series of thought-provoking questions and exercises, shedding light on the presence of colorism in communities, society and media. She showcased compelling historical and contemporary print ads, billboards and advertisements from the U.S., France and Asia, demonstrating how media supports a harmful, racist narrative that white is best, “the lighter your skin, the better you are.” She encouraged her audience to reflect on the messages the media portrays to Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC), and the messages it portrays to white people.

Broadening the Scope of Race Equity Work

Pamela stressed the importance of broadening the scope of race equity work beyond an American-centric perspective to better serve diverse staff with varying life experiences. Recognizing the disparities in the representation experienced by BIPOC American-born staff and those born outside the U.S., she pointed out that discussions about race need to adapt to the backgrounds of the communities we partner with. “Many of our BIPOC American-born staff struggle to remember the age when they saw people like themselves on TV, and many of my team members born outside of the U.S. said they saw representation all their lives.”

The result is that the conversations around race we may have in the U.S. do not mean the same thing to individuals raised in other countries. However, when we ask what it means to have dark skin, many individuals around the globe can relate to biases around skin tone. –Where the U.S. may embrace terms such as “Black” and “Brown,” individuals born outside the U.S. may cringe at the thought of their child or themselves being labeled with terms such as brown or black because they are viewed negatively in their home country.

Embracing Uncomfortable Conversations for Positive Change

Delving into these deeply ingrained biases, Pamela acknowledged the weight of these discussions. She was particularly mindful of encouraging her audience to stay present and engaged, as addressing these “sneaky little buggers that sit with us” is crucial for positive change and needs to be talked about. As a result, there can be powerful outcomes from doing this hard work; by challenging ourselves to uncover deeply held biases, we can improve our decision making, allowing us to do better in the communities we serve.

Resources For Deeper Understanding

To gain a deeper understanding of colorism, Pamela referenced the book Colorism: Investigating a Global Phenomenon by Dr. Kamilah Woodson. She also shared movie suggestions that explore this subject, including Imitation of Life and Passing. These resources provide valuable insights into the complex worldwide issue of colorism and its societal impacts.

Advancing Racial Equity

For over 40 years, Start Early has been singularly focused on the healthy development of young children, from before birth until kindergarten, helping close the opportunity gap and ensure children are ready to learn.

We are uncompromising in our pursuit of excellence and remain steadfast in our commitment to dismantling the unjust practices and policies that are harmful to children and families of color. Our work would not be possible without recognizing that each child and family has been uniquely impacted and traumatized by racism and generations of long-tolerated inequities.

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Echoing Resilience: Intertribal Canoe Journeys

Mateo (6) and Kulani (4) patiently wait for canoes to arrive*

October celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day, honoring Indigenous People’s legacy, traditions and invaluable contributions.

In the rich tapestry of Indigenous coastal communities of the Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska, the timeless art of canoeing embodies more than just transportation — it represents profound journeys that symbolize unity, resilience, and a deep connection to the land and the water.

Start Early Washington’s Training and Technical Assistance Specialist Alex Patricelli shared how she reclaimed her Native culture and traditions with her young boys Mateo (6) and Kulani (4) through the celebration of intertribal canoe journeys at the 2023 Paddle to Muckleshoot.

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Why is culture important?

In an increasingly interconnected world, embracing one's cultural identity is more important than ever, particularly for children and families. Culture is foundational to shaping our values, beliefs and actions while offering a sense of belonging, understanding and pride.
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Canoes waiting for tribal permission to come ashore, Seattle in the background*

For generations, coastal tribal communities relied on canoes for daily life. However, cultural ties were severed when canoeing was banned in the U.S. and Canada in the 20th century. More than 100 years passed before this restriction was lifted. In 1989, coastal communities reclaimed the canoe with an intertribal canoe journey to symbolize the resilience and survival of traditional practices against colonization and Western assimilation challenges.

In preparation for the 2023 epic canoe journey, Alex wanted to make her boys custom drums. The drum is regarded as the heartbeat of Indigenous culture in ceremonies, celebrations and spiritual gatherings.

Custom drums for Mateo and Kulani*

Alex’s vision for the drums was clear: to harmoniously blend her son’s multifaceted cultural identities, uniting them as brothers while also preserving their individuality. She soaked the deer hide, skillfully assembled the drum kits and hand-painted each drum. The drums serve as a canvas for symbolism, where a turtle and manta ray take center stage through distinct imagery.

Canoe journeys symbolize ancestral unity, resilience, and a deep connection to the world for our family.

Alex Patricelli, Start Early Washington's Training and Technical Assistance Specialist
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Alex elaborated on the origins of her art designs, “The outer ring symbolizes the boys’ Native heritage, inspired by the ‘formline’ design of Coastal Native artwork. Within the lines, both drums bear the symbols of a turtle and manta ray, which hold cultural significance to our Chamorro and Filipino heritage and represent qualities of persistence, wisdom, patience, good fortune, power and protection.”

Alex further emphasized, “drums are regarded as living entities and not just musical instruments; before a drum can be used, we awaken their spirit by burning sage and infusing them with good thoughts, energy and blessings. Mateo and Kulani are learning to respect and understand the hand drum’s cultural significance, a vital part of our families’ cultural teachings and identity that we’ve worked hard to reclaim for our family.”

*all photos credited to Alex Patricelli

Weaving Culture into Life’s Fabric: Home Visiting Support

In the grand tapestry of existence, culture isn’t just a thread; it’s the essence shaping our being, infusing a profound sense of belonging, pride and identity. Home visitors uniquely foster cultural identity by inviting families to share traditions and beliefs, where cultural exchange can flourish. Just as each family is unique, so is their cultural expedition. “Tailoring support to align with each family’s cultural values and goals is essential. Home visitors have the opportunity to intentionally prioritize cultural integration through community events, group connections and home visits.”

Here are a few examples of how home visitors nurture cultural identity:

  • Active Listening: Home visitors can identify significant cultural practices by listening to families’ stories and experiences. This helps build trust and rapport.
  • Intergenerational Bonding: Encouraging families to interweave the wisdom of grandparents and elders fosters intergenerational bonds and embraces the passage of cultural heritage.
  • Resource Sharing: Providing families with resources, books and materials that celebrate their culture encourages them to incorporate cultural elements into their daily lives. Additionally, helping families celebrate cultural milestones, such as festivals and holidays, by suggesting activities or connecting them with local cultural events is invaluable.

Home visitors partner with families by honoring and preserving cultural identity to foster a profound sense of belonging and pride for generations to come.

Learn more about how Start Early Washington supports home visiting programs.

Olympia Capitol Building No matter the season, the Capitol Campus is always gorgeous!
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock, Sept. 19, 2023)

Changes in the Legislative Makeup in 2024 and Beyond

What legislative makeup changes can we expect heading into 2024’s legislative session? Christine Rolfes’ decision to leave the state Senate for a seat on the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners kicked off a series of changes to the Senate and House of Representatives membership and committee assignments. During the first shift, in August, the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners appointed House of Representatives member Drew Hansen to serve the remainder of Senator Rolfes’ Senate term (with now Commissioner Rolfes abstaining in the vote).

In September, the same Board of Commissioners appointed Greg Nance to fill Rep. Hansen’s former House seat. The part of Rep. Nance’s resume that is generating the most conversation is his passion for running and the fact that he ran across the country (that’s 3,156 miles!) for youth mental health. He also enjoys running ultramarathons. Impressive!

Because former Senator Rolfes chaired the powerful Senate Ways and Means Committee, her departure led to a number of changes in Senate Committee assignments. Last week, Senate Democrats announced that Senate Ways and Means Committee Vice Chair June Robinson from Snohomish County would assume the Chair role, with Senator Joe Nguyen from West Seattle serving as the Committee Vice Chair. Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee Chair Emily Randall from Kitsap County was added to the Ways and Means Committee, filling Sen. Nguyen’s seat.

Senator Hansen was appointed to the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development, Labor and Commerce and the Transportation Committees. In other shuffling, Senator Marko Liias replaced Sen. Rolfes on the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks Committee.

How are the 2024 elections shaping up? As we’ve previously reported, Governor Jay Inslee’s decision not to seek a fourth term set in motion a series of cascading dominoes. We know two current statewide officeholders – Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz – have thrown their hats into the ring for the open Governor seat, along with the current state Senator from the Issaquah area, Mark Mullet. Further, longtime Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced he does not plan to seek a seventh term, opening up a fourth statewide office.

As of this writing, five sitting state senators have announced plans to run for the four open statewide seats:

  • Senator Mark Mullet from Issaquah for Governor
  • Senator Manka Dhingra from Redmond for Attorney General
  • Senator Patty Kuderer from Bellevue for Insurance Commissioner
  • Senator Kevin Van De Wege from Port Angeles for Public Lands Commissioner
  • Senator Rebecca Saldana from Seattle for Public Lands Commissioner

With Senate seats up for election every four years, only two of these current state senators have to give up their Senate seats to run for statewide office – Senators Mullet and Van De Wege. Senators Dhingra, Kuderer and Saldana are up for election in the Senate in 2026. Should any of these three prevail in their statewide election, however, there would be appointments for their Senate seats. Like with the recent ascension of Drew Hansen to Christine Rolfes’ Senate seat, it is very common for House members to seek an open Senate seat (which of course leads to openings in the House and more shuffling).

Another data point is that in 2024, 27 of the 49 Senate seats will be up for election. This is higher than usual because of a number of midterm Senate appointments. All 98 House seats will be up for election in 2024 as well.

Are you following all of this?? It is confusing and, yes, I had to make my own chart to keep track of all the potential movement. And, this is all happening before the usual round of retirement announcements that typically occur during the legislative session. Guess I should have written my chart in pencil …

State Revenue Update

On Sept. 26, the Washington State Revenue and Forecast Council met to receive the latest revenue report from the state’s Chief Economist Dr. Steve Lerch. While revenue collections are slowing, they do continue to outpace projections. Revenues are expected to be $663M more than anticipated for the 2023-25 biennium and $437M more than anticipated for the subsequent 2025-27 biennium.

Washington continues to enjoy its lowest unemployment rate of all time at 3.6%. High inflation rates continue to be a risk to the state’s economy as does the potential federal government shutdown. Dr. Lerch noted that the resumption of federal student loan payments will mean fewer dollars will flow into our state’s economy, impacting sales tax receipts. The question of the magnitude of the impact of the student loan payments resuming was asked by a number of legislators on the panel and Dr. Lerch replied it is too early to anticipate the impact.

After years of service, Dr. Lerch will be retiring from his role as the state’s economist and the Council is slated to appoint his successor at its Oct. 6 meeting. Dr. Lerch is widely considered a trusted resource and is appreciated for calling it like he sees it.

State Agency Decision Packages

Each September, state agencies submit to the Office of Financial Management (OFM) “Decision Packages” containing agency requests for consideration of funding to be included in the Governor’s budget released in mid-late December.

Note that 2024 is an “off year” where the Legislature will adopt a supplemental budget. Supplemental budgets are designed to account for caseload shifts or unanticipated expenses (such as expenses associated with intense fire seasons). While supplemental budgets are not intended for significant investments, state agencies and advocates (and legislators) will still try to advance priority initiatives.

Over the next few months, the Governor and his team will weigh the various proposals against available funding. One final revenue forecast released in November will inform the Governor’s proposal with the Governor’s budget out in December.

These decision packages can be found on the OFM website. Web access to the decision packages is clunky, so we summarized some of the key early learning requests submitted by the Department of Children, Youth and Families below:

ECEAP Entitlement

DCYF requested a total of $37M for the supplemental budget, with the amount rising to $82.09M in years 25-27. DCYF proposes the new funding support three areas: slot rates, slot expansion and quality supports.

  • Slot Rates ($29.759M). DCYF requested a 19% rate increase for school-day slots and a 28% increase for working-day slots. Funding at this amount would equal the full rate recommendation in the ECEAP cost study . This would raise the school-day rate from $14,893 to $17,659 (and then to $18,030 in SFY 26). It would also increase the working-day rate from the current $21,478 to $27,587 (going up to $28,166 in SFY 26).
  • Slot Expansion ($4.976M). The adopted 2023-25 budget included 500 new school-day slots. In the supplemental budget, DCYF is requesting an additional 200 school-day and 50 working-day slots. The decision package notes that three contractors returned 246 slots this year due to staffing shortages.
  • Quality Supports ($1.046M in maintenance and $149K for new slots). This funding request would support child assessment, curriculum and training. This request was not fully funded in the 2023-25 budget and $1.046M represents that funding gap. Additional funding is needed because of pricing increases from a vendor and quality funding not provided to support new slots allotted.

Making Child Care Work for Families

A total of $12.597M in the 2023-25 supplemental budget is requested to align eligibility for ECEAP, Working Connections, Head Start, Early Head Start and Early ECEAP. Alignment would include:

  • Allow participation in ECEAP, Early ECEAP, Head Start and Early Head Start as an approved Working Connections activity. This would cost $2.377M and impact about 166 families who are enrolled in Working Connections and either Head Start or ECEAP.
  • Continued Working Connections Eligibility for 12 months for children adopted or in guardianship. This would cost $1.091M.
  • Exclude child support, Social Security and SSI as income for ECEAP and Working Connections Eligibility. This would cost $6.876M for child support and $2.115M for SS/SSI exclusion.

Infant Rate Enhancement and Non-Standard Hours Bonus

A total of $23.758M is requested in the 2023-25 supplemental budget and $47.458M in 2025-27 to:

  • Increase infant rate enhancement from $90 a month to $500 a month. This would cost $14 million and impact about 2500 children. DCYF also requests 1 FTE to manage the contracting of slots for the approximately 100 infants placed with kin or relative parents.
  • Increase non-standard hour care bonus from $135 a month to $500 a month. This would cost $8M.
  • Increase shared services funding to $1.7M. This supports training, mentoring and consulting.

Transition to Kindergarten Coordinated Recruitment and Enrollment

DCYF requests $1.357M and 2 FTE to implement the requirements of the 2023 Transition to Kindergarten legislation (the adopted budget did not include this funding). The decision package also includes funding for Child Care Aware to support bringing local partners together to coordinate and communicate. The goal is to support increased access to pre-K and informed parental choice.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction may also have a decision package for its costs associated with this work, but it has not been posted as of this writing.

State Redistricting Updates

In August, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik found that the map for the 15th Legislative District in the Yakima area limited Latino voter participation and representation in elections. The Washington State Standard does a great job of describing the case in a series of articles.

Invalidating the map drawn by the state’s Redistricting Commission, Judge Lasnik directed the Legislature to either call the Redistricting Commission back to redraw the district or leave the redrawing to the federal court. The Judge ordered the new redistricting plan be sent to the Secretary of State by March 25, 2024 to allow time for the new district(s) to be considered for the 2024 elections.

It is important to note that the redrawing of one legislative district has ripple effects and it is likely that this redistricting will impact the makeup of multiple legislative districts.

While the District Court did provide an option for the Redistricting Commission to be convened by the Legislature to redraw the district, on Sept. 13, the State Standard reported that Democratic legislative leadership does not plan to exercise that option, and the federal court should undergo the redistricting process.

Expect this redistricting conversation to be another focal point in 2024.

Capitol Campus Construction

Irv Newhouse Building during the waning days of the Legislative session in April 2023
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

A much different view in September 2023
(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

A visit to Olympia is not complete without checking out the progress on the Capitol campus modernization project. As the most recent picture clearly demonstrates, the Irv Newhouse Building – which housed Senate Republican members – along with the Capitol Press houses and the old visitor center are all demolished. The new “view” as you walk toward the Capitol campus is striking.

You can learn more about the Newhouse replacement building on the Department of Enterprise Services website. One update that will bring joy to Capitol dwellers is the inclusion of conference rooms for meetings – something that is sorely lacking on the current campus.

A note if you are planning to visit the Capitol in the near-term, the visitor’s parking lot is closed due to the construction. Alternative parking lots can be found here.

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Whether it is preparing an older sibling for the arrival of a new baby or potty training a toddler, Camille Carlson recognizes that everyone – whether they are aware of it or not – uses Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) to improve everyday life. CQI is an invaluable reminder of the strength found in taking small, intentional steps. Therefore, it is important to break up the process into achievable goals – and celebrate the milestones along the way!

As Start Early Washington’s Quality Improvement and Innovation Manager, Camille Carlson’s approach to Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) is instrumental in supporting home visiting services statewide. Through individual and group coaching, Camille guides professionals in the field toward providing the best possible services for children and families using tools to identify and test changes on a small scale. Together with CQI teams and Washington home visiting programs, Camille works to identify changes that result in significant improvements for the home visiting field, families and children, all part of Start Early Washington’s mission to create strong foundations necessary for more fulfilling work that continuously improves supports and resources available to families statewide.

A Beautiful Reminder

Camille uses her expertise to help home visiting programs deliver services relevant to the unique needs of the children and families they support. Her firsthand experience as a parent fuels her desire to improve systems of support for children, their families, and the teams of staff that serve them. Camille’s motivation for this work grew when she was pregnant with her second child. “During my pregnancy, I had the support of home visitors and supervisors at my fingertips. As I listened to home visiting professionals across the state discuss parent coaching and family observations, I started applying their valuable insight to navigate the changing dynamics of my life with two children. This process helped me gain confidence in my parenting skills, and it was a beautiful reminder that family is central to our work. I was overwhelmed by the support that was given to me and the confidence that it brought, which emphasized the importance of sharing such a positive experience with others.”

It's easy to get lost in big goals. If you focus on small steps, you feel like you are progressing toward your goal and more likely to sustain your gains while addressing other things.

— Camille
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Connecting Data to Practice

Quality improvement is essential to providing successful home visiting services where staff collaboratively establish goals, reflect and create actionable steps for improvement. By adhering to a CQI process, home visiting programs can build strong relationships with families, make well-planned decisions and increase positive outcomes to achieve better support for children and families.

The ongoing, collaborative process draws on the expertise and experience of home visitors, supervisors, community partners and families. Although data points are a big part of CQI, Start Early Washington works toward cultivating a culture of continuous quality improvement rather than another set of requirements to check off for reports. “Since I’ve been in my role, we have seen an investment in a CQI culture. Teams have grown significantly, and we are beginning to see a sense of buy-in and excitement around the process.”

Camille shared her immense gratitude for the opportunity to work with and coach organizations that provide home visiting services to families across Washington state with the shared goal of creating positive change for the organizations and families that they serve, utilizing a CQI lens.

CQI tools support home visiting programs through activities and benefits such as:

  • Individual coaching and consultation for home visiting programs that guides problem-level improvement projects and supports data analysis or reporting
  • Group learning offers programs the opportunity to share and reflect on future improvement strategies
  • Facilitation and liaising with national CQI resources and initiatives

Over time, our goal is to develop meaningful partnerships with programs and families to improve systems of support and lifelong outcomes. Meaningful relationships can be fostered throughout the stages of quality engagement, all while building confidence and trust between providers and families as they work toward a common goal.

Explore more about Washington’s home visiting work and strategic tools.

Strengthening family engagement and retention in home visiting programs are crucial for supporting positive lifelong outcomes for children and families. Here’s a peek at some of the things we are learning about ways to enhance family engagement and retention:

Increased Communication and Check-Ins: Regular and open communication keeps families engaged and connected. Frequent check-ins, whether through phone calls, text messages or virtual meetings, allow home visitors to stay in touch with families, offer support, and address any concerns or challenges families may face.

Flexibility and Individualization: Recognizing that each family has unique needs and circumstances, programs can offer flexible approaches and individualized support. What works for one family may not work for another, so tailoring services to meet families’ specific needs and preferences is fundamental for engagement and retention.

Personalized Celebrations and Surveys: Personalized cards or small gifts to celebrate milestones or achievements demonstrate that the program values and acknowledges the families’ progress. Surveys are also helpful to understand the evolving needs of families and gather feedback to improve program effectiveness.

Engaging Multiple Family Members: Involving various family members during home visits can create a sense of collective support and shared responsibility for the child’s well-being. Engaging parents, grandparents, or other caregivers welcomes input from multiple perspectives.

Flexibility in Scheduling and Locations: Offering flexibility in scheduling home visits and meeting locations can help accommodate families’ unique circumstances, reducing barriers to access. This approach acknowledges that families have busy lives and varying constraints.

Group Connections: Providing opportunities for families to connect in group settings can foster a sense of community and support. Group activities or events can also be beneficial for sharing experiences, learning from one another and reducing feelings of isolation.

Rotating Locations: Rotating locations for connections across the county or service area can help meet families where they are, making support more accessible and inclusive for families.

By investing in the quality of relationships between home visitors and families and implementing strategies that address families’ specific needs and preferences, home visiting programs can successfully promote family engagement and retention.

The above information stems from our Continuous Quality Improvement work with home visiting programs during FY23. To learn more about how home visiting transforms lives, we invite you to explore our work in Washington state.

Olympia prepares for Capital Lakefair 2023: An annual family-friendly festival complete with rides, fireworks and elephant ears!

Happy New Year! – Fiscal New Year, That is! July 1 signals the start of a new fiscal year and – in odd-numbered years – the start of a new biennium. While our wall calendars may say 2023, Washington state government is in State Fiscal Year 2024 as fiscal years run from July 1 through June 30. If you manage a state contract, you are likely well aware of this transition, as the end of a fiscal year often brings a flurry of activity to allow state agencies to “close their books.”

Many new laws go into effect at the start of new fiscal years, including the controversial drug possession law in response to the “Blake Decision.” For example, the 2021 Fair Start for Kids Act laid out a number of milestones to increase access and affordability to quality early care and education. Per the Fair Start for Kids Act, effective July 1, 2023, Working Connections Child Care monthly copayments for families earning between 50-60% of the State Median Income rose from $115 to $165 a month. The Fair Start for Kids Act also provided that at the start of the next biennium (July 1, 2025), eligibility for Working Connections Child Care will rise from 60% of the State Median Income to 75% of the State Median Income (rising from $4764 to $5955 a month for a family of three). Here’s a breakdown summary from our resources page.

State Revenue Updates

On June 27, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council met to receive the final revenue report for state Fiscal Year 2023. The forecast projects higher than expected revenue for the biennium that just ended as well as for the upcoming 2023-25 and 2025-27 biennia. These increases are largely thanks to projected increases in capital gains revenues. For example, of the $327 million revenue increase forecasted for the 2023-25 biennium we just entered, $108 million can be attributed to higher than anticipated capital gains receipts and $89 million in higher sales tax revenues.

As a reminder, 2021 legislation affirmed by the Washington State Supreme Court in early 2023 created a 7 percent tax on the sale or exchange of certain capital gains assets valued above $250,000. The law took effect Jan. 1, 2022 and first payments were due by April 18, 2023. The enacting legislation provided that the first $500 million received be directed toward the Education Legacy Trust Account (ELTA) to support early learning and public schools and any dollars received above $500 million be deposited into the Common School Construction Account (CSCA).

Decision Package Process

(Photo Credit: Department of Children, Youth and Families)

As the graphic above demonstrates, there is little “downtime” in the state budgeting process because state agencies begin planning for budget requests for the next legislative session before the ink is even dry from the previous legislative session.

Like the legislative process, state budgeting also serves as a “funnel,” with the number of viable proposals narrowing down throughout the process.

Following direction provided by the Governor’s budget shop (the Office of Financial Management, or OFM), state agencies work over the summer months reviewing, vetting and modeling potential budget proposals (referred to as decision packages – or “DPs”) as well as agency request legislation (ARLs). This is a very intensive process as agencies weigh this executive guidance and agency priorities with other practicalities (e.g., supplemental budget year, legislative appetite, etc.).

In September of each year, state agencies officially submit their decision package and agency request legislation ideas to the Office of Financial Management (OFM). OFM then publishes all the submitted documents on its website so the information is available to the public. Once state agencies submit their proposals, the focus turns to OFM staff and the Governor as they enter “budget build,” reviewing the various decision packages and agency request legislation proposals.

This part of the process culminates in the release of the Governor’s proposed budget in mid-December annually. Note that even though we will have a new Governor in 2025, Governor Inslee will submit a final two-year budget in 2024 prior to leaving the Governor’s office.

It is also important to note that once the Governor’s budget is released, state agencies can only advocate for proposals contained therein. This means that if one of their decision packages was not included in the Governor’s budget, that state agency is limited to answering technical questions about the program/service and cannot advocate in the same way they can if the item is funded in the Governor’s budget. For this reason, decision packages have a short “shelf life.” Once the Governor’s budget is released, decision packages really only serve to provide data points and cost modeling information.

We will share a summary of key decision packages and agency request legislation after their release in September. In the meantime, check out our Deep Dive section from August for a refresher on how the decision package process works.

Impending Changes

(Photo Credit: Image by wirestock on Freepik)

Dominos Falling … I recently scrolled through the legislative website and was struck by the magnitude of change Olympia will see – regardless of the 2024 elections – and we have not even reached the time during election years when lawmakers looking to retire announce they are not seeking reelection. These announcements typically occur toward the end of the short legislative session in even-numbered years.

Governor Jay Inslee’s decision to not run for a fourth term as Governor set in motion falling dominos with the offices of Attorney General and Public Lands Commissioner opening up as those incumbents threw their hats in the ring for the Governorship. Shortly thereafter, longtime Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced he, too, would not seek another term.

These announcements set up a flurry of potential movement in the Legislature, particularly in the Senate, with at least four sitting Senators signaling interest in pursuing statewide elected office. Of course, some of these Senators could change their mind and decide not to run, or their quest for statewide office could come in a year when they are not up for reelection, so they would not have to give up their Senate seat if they did not prevail. If any sitting Senators do give up their Senate seats to seek statewide office, we can expect a number of their House of Representative seatmates to show interest in those Senate seats. More dominoes …

We already know the 2024 legislative session will not include longtime Senate Ways and Means Chair Christine Rolfes as she resigned her Senate seat effective mid-August to serve on the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners. Kitsap County Democratic Precinct Committee Officers selected Senator Rolfes’ House seatmate Drew Hansen as its top choice to fill the empty seat. The Kitsap County Board of Commissioners will make the final decision.

Legislative sessions are never boring and the magnitude of impending changes in personnel will make the “palace intrigue” of Olympia all the more fascinating.

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The Capitol Campus is just showing off …

With swift action on the “Blake Fix” relating to drug possession laws and treatment during a one-day special session May 16, 2023, the Legislature officially concluded its business, ushering in the beloved season simply known as “interim.”

This edition of “Notes from Olympia” includes a wrap-up of budget and policy items, revenue updates and other key announcements.

Bill Signings Completed

Bill action. Following adjournment of the Special Legislative Session on May 16, Governor Jay Inslee signed the final bill passed by the Legislature (which, fittingly, was 2E2SSB 5536 related to drug possession and treatment, the topic of the special session).

Although the Governor signed into law most of the bills that reached his desk, he did issue some vetoes and partial vetoes. One bill he vetoed in its entirety was SHB 1590, which would have changed the membership and subcommittee structure of the Department of Children, Youth and Families Oversight Board. In his veto letter, Governor Inslee expressed his preference for a different approach for including the voices of individuals with expertise in educating youth in juvenile institutions or foster care.

Start Early Washington updated its bill tracker on its resources page to reflect the Governor’s actions on early learning related bills.

Budgets signed. The Governor signed both the Capital and Operating budgets, with some partial vetoes. Avid readers of our trivia section will be pleased to hear the Capital budget provision to restore the historic skylights in the Legislative Building in advance of the building’s 100-year anniversary of its opening in 2028 was approved.

Those of you, however, hoping to access the top of the Capitol dome via its steep 262 stairs for the first time since 2007 will be disappointed to hear that Capital budget provision was vetoed due to safety concerns. As a result, this photo outside of the cupola atop the Dome will not be recreated anytime soon:

The year of this photo is unknown, but my educated guess is the late 1960s- early 1970s based on the snazzy fashion choices.
(Photo Credit: Washington State Archives)

Start Early Washington’s resource page also includes a breakdown of new investments in early learning related items. Our initial math shows these investments total just south of $740 million in new federal and state funding. One of our interim projects is to dive deeper into these numbers. Our working hypothesis is that this is the largest increase in state funding for early learning to date.

Revenue Collection Update

Each month, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council produces updates on revenue collections and other economic trends (such as unemployment and housing construction).

May revenue collections came in $16.4 million lower than the March forecast. Adding in the April revenue collections, cumulative revenues are now $21 million lower than forecasted. If actual revenue collections continue to come in lower than forecasted, adjustments to the 2023-25 biennial budgets will need to be made when the Legislature returns in 2024.


Near the end of the bill signing period, Governor Jay Inslee announced he does not plan to pursue a fourth term as Governor in 2024, setting off a chain of subsequent declarations (official and “exploratory”) of intent to run for various offices. We could also see movement in the legislative makeup – and chairmanship(s) of key committee(s) – prior to the start of the 2024 legislative session as a number of sitting lawmakers threw their names in for consideration for local government roles.

As a result of these announcements, change will be the theme in Olympia at least through 2025.

A New Policy and Politics Resource

The Washington State Standard, a great new, nonpartisan resource focused on Washington state government, is now available free of charge. Reporters for the Washington State Standard include longtime Olympia reporter Jerry Cornfield (formerly of the Everett Herald) and Laurel Demkovich who covered Olympia for the Spokesman Review. The Washington State Standard has quickly become a “must read” for those interested in policy and politics at the state level. Sign-up to receive a daily update in your email.

One of its first stories focused on child care, analyzing the gaps in our system regarding family access, affordability and provider compensation.

Final Note – Update on the Newhouse Building

Now that I’m no longer in Olympia on a daily basis, I rely on colleagues and Twitter to keep me updated on the status of the various construction projects that entertained me during the session. Thanks to DCYF Government Affairs Policy Advisor Mary Sprute Garlant for this status update on the Newhouse Building construction as of May 4. My “sources” tell me the building is now completely demolished.

Newhouse Building construction as of May 4, 2023
(Photo Credit: DCYF Government Affairs Policy Advisor Mary Sprute Garlant)

Thanks for reading! We will be sharing updates periodically throughout the legislative interim. Feel free to share any ideas for deep dives or trivia.

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As the program analyst for Start Early Washington, Anna Contreras is always thinking about what works best to support the children and families that participate in Washington’s home visiting programs. She collects and analyzes a mixture of quantitative raw data as well as the often-overlooked qualitative feedback needed to truly improve and enrich the home visiting experience for children and families. This includes collating information gathered from numerous home visiting professionals across the state.

Anna has dedicated her professional career to understanding how relationship-based supports impact lifelong outcomes for young children and their families. She’s particularly interested in families grappling with adversities, such as migrant and seasonal farmworkers, immigrant communities and dual language learners. “My Latinx background not only identifies me but defines me. As a second-generation immigrant, I relate to the challenges of those who are growing and learning from their native culture while also adjusting to new societal norms and navigating American culture.”

Anna and her mother reading together
Anna (7 yrs) and her mom love to read books from their local library.

Anna’s commitment to improving the home visiting experience and creating more equitable and inclusive systems that recognize and respect diversity begins with her mother. Home visiting has been part of Anna’s life since the day she was born. Anna’s mother received home visiting services in Washington state when she was pregnant with Anna, a support that was not provided for Anna’s siblings. Because of this experience, her mother was better connected to her community’s resources and felt more comfortable talking through the various roadblocks she was experiencing. In addition, her home visitor helped her better understand the services and supports available to her. They were a trusted partner to nurture and support Anna’s healthy development. This was especially important to Anna’s mother because she didn’t have her mom (Anna’s abuela) near at the time.

Recalling her personal experiences and her experience helping her parents navigate data collection and other complex information, Anna finds it essential to create inclusive forms and dashboards for the home visiting support team.

“I always ask, what would make the most sense for the person using this tool? Interpretation is everchanging, and you must make space to understand where others are coming from.” — Anna

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Anna also shared the importance of considering the impact on the person collecting information. “When creating forms, we consider the impact on the staff asking the questions — such as, what does the answer mean for the respondent? How is this information going to be utilized? What are the unintended consequences for the person sharing the information? People must feel comfortable enough to share this information. They also want to ensure that necessary changes will follow and that they are not wasting their time answering another set of questions; it is hard to be vulnerable, especially when you are unsure of what will happen next with the information provided.”

Whether it’s a first-time parent connecting with a home visitor or staff sharing their experiences with each other, trust and respect are vital to collecting meaningful information. Relationship-building is foundational to Start Early Washington’s work and a key ingredient to affecting meaningful change.

“As a first-generation college student, relationship-building was important to me. Feeling seen and heard was fundamental to my growth and development, and therefore I carry that experience in my work today.” Feeling accepted, safe and connected to a community of support helped push Anna past moments of self-doubt and projected her toward future success in her home life, career and beyond.

The Subtle Differences

Data showcasing the subtle differences in home visiting provider experiences and the depth of variation between the family dynamics they support helps inform the resources and learning opportunities needed for the home visiting field as well as the various elements required to support the children and families they partner with. In addition, such data-driven insights are vital to maintaining an inclusive and collaborative decision-making process for system improvements.

Anna primarily works with Start Early Washington’s home visiting team to improve home visiting services and outcomes for children and their families in Washington state. Anna works closely with the home visiting team to assess customized coaching and mentoring offered to home visiting programs. Similarly, she evaluates how Start Early Washington can best support comprehensive learning opportunities, transparent data collection and thoughtful analysis.

For example, surveys are designed to answer questions such as: Does the home visiting field have the professional development opportunities they need to grow their skills? What additional support is needed for home visitors to feel confident in their role? How can Start Early Washington help home visiting professionals achieve individual and programmatic goals? These questions and more help to ultimately measure how we can support positive system changes —such as gains in knowledge, better time management, improved staff retention and the creation of better family engagement protocols.

Qualitative feedback helps Anna understand the story of home visiting in our state, connecting the necessary data points to improve system outcomes and inform policymakers. Data allows us to see how and when priorities shift for programs, and feedback and discussion help us understand what success and challenges look like for home visiting programs and the families they work with. Qualitative feedback from our home visiting team helps uncover trends in discussions, typically hidden among quantitative numbers alone. This data complements ongoing performance monitoring to ensure continuous quality improvement for home visiting professionals statewide.

Anna’s work strengthens home visiting programs by showcasing the power of relationship-based work, reinforcing the deep connections and trust between home visitors and families. Recognizing the unique identities, heritages, cultures and human emotions while celebrating differences and bolstering representation validates and supports an environment of inclusion for the entire home visiting system.

Trust Is Pivotal

While data is critical to support a high-quality system, trust is pivotal to accessing quality information and rich feedback. Some things for home visiting teams to consider when collecting data:

  • Use simplified language; the frame of information is important.
  • Are questions clear enough to capture the needed information?
  • Do all parties understand how the data collected will inform the home visiting system?
  • Does the reader understand their rights and role in responding to the questions?

Co-Creative Learning Opportunities for Home Visiting Professionals

Start Early Washington facilitates learning opportunities as well as unstructured co-creative opportunities for home visiting professionals statewide to build knowledge, seek mentorship, connect and decompress with others in the field experiencing similar situations. Together, they work through obstacles and celebrate successes; since 2020, Start Early Washington’s work has reached nearly 8,235 children and families. Our approach to supporting the home visiting field includes mindfulness practices, reflection, sharing experiences and knowledge that builds trust in a strengths-based learning environment.

The Washington State Legislature adjourned “Sine Die” just after 10 p.m. Sunday, April 23.

Following is a recap of key actions since our Friday morning release of “Notes From Olympia.”

Release and Passage of 2023-25 Budgets

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Operating, Capital and Transportation budgets over the weekend. The Capital and Transportation budgets passed with broad bipartisan support, while the Operating budget passed on a party-line vote in the House and saw 8 Republicans joining Democrats to vote for passage in the Senate.

Of particular interest to loyal “Notes from Olympia” trivia readers, the final Capital budget does include funding to restore the skylights above the Senate and House chambers in time for the Legislative Building’s centennial celebration in 2028.

Start Early Washington updated its budget comparison document on our resources page to reflect the final early learning related budget items. Despite concern of a potential economic downturn as well as multiple competing demands, the adopted budgets contain significant investments for a number of early learning programs.

Lawmakers worked incredibly long hours to craft this budget and would no doubt appreciate hearing a “thank you” for prioritizing early learning investments. Legislative email addresses all share the format of firstname.lastname@leg.wa.gov. Specific emails can be found on the legislative website.

Updates on Outstanding Bills

We’ve updated our bill tracker on our resource page to include this weekend’s bill activity. Remember, bills that did not advance in 2023 can be revisited in 2024.

In what turned out to be the final bill vote for the 2023 legislative session, the House voted to concur in Senate amendments to 2SHB 1550 on a 60-37 vote, sending the legislation relating to Transitional Kindergarten to the Governor’s desk. Earlier in the evening, the Senate adopted a striker to 2SHB 1550 on a 39-10 vote.

As passed by the Legislature, the bill:

  • Codifies Transitional Kindergarten and reconstitutes it as Transition to Kindergarten (TTK).
  • Directs the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop rules for the administration of and standards for TTK. Initial rules must be adopted prior to the start of the 2023-24 school year with permanent rules by the 2024-25 school year.
  • Provides that only school-district authorized charter schools may immediately offer TTK and the charter commission authorized charter schools may offer TTK beginning in the 2025-26 school year.
  • Defines eligibility for TTK as those children who have been determined to benefit from additional preparation for kindergarten and who are at least four-years old by 8/31 of each year.
  • Requires, as practicable, TTK programs prioritize children from lowest income families and those most in need of additional preparation.
  • TTK is not considered a child-level entitlement.
  • Unless excused by parents or caregivers, requires administration of WaKIDS at the start and end of the school year.
  • Calls for a local child care and early learning needs assessment prior to beginning or expanding a TTK program. Also directs OSPI and DCYF to develop statewide coordinated eligibility, recruitment, enrollment and selection best practices.
  • Provides that TTK programs must follow OSPI developed guidelines related to best practices for site readiness, developmentally appropriate curricula and professional development. OSPI must also develop a process for site visits to provide feedback on these guidelines.
  • Prohibits charging of tuition as well as excluding children due to the presence of a disability.
  • Allows TTK programs to blend and co-locate with other early learning programs.
  • Provides that TTK students will be counted as a kindergarten student for funding purposes, but reported separately (to be able to get an accurate count of the number of TTK students). Funding is equivalent to the prototypical school funding model (including transportation), but is not considered part of basic education.
  • Directs DCYF to make administrative changes to better align early learning programs.
  • Finally, directs the caseload forecast council to forecast for TTK.

You can track the scheduling of bill signings on the Governor’s webpage. The Governor must act upon all bills that reach his desk by May 15.

Legislative Leadership Change Announced

On Sine Die, House Minority Leader JT Wilcox shared his plans to step down as the House Republican leader. The leadership change will occur when the House Republican Caucus selects a new leader. During an interview on TVW, Representative Wilcox stated he does plan to continue in the House.

Thank you for your partnership with us through the 2023 legislative session. We look forward to continuing our shared work to build more equitable systems for children and families in Washington state.

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(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

This edition of “Notes From Olympia” will serve as our final weekly newsletter, signaling the end of the 2023 legislative session.

What Is Next?

  • Look for an email early next week, which will include final budget details, bill status updates and a recap of the last days of the legislative session.
  • We will share an update covering Gov. Inslee’s actions mid-May.
  • Our “Notes From Olympia” will continue periodically during the interim to keep you abreast of early learning policy developments.


Which Governor was associated with “The Kick” incident in 1913?

Budget Details

Conference reports for the2023-25 biennial budgets will be released by Saturday of this week and voted upon prior to legislative adjournment. Specifically, the Operating budget details will be released Saturday, April 22, at noon. Because these actions will occur after this week’s newsletter publication, we plan to send out an email early next week including the final budget details as well as a recap of the last days of the legislative session. When completed, the budget summary will be available on Start Early Washington’s resource page.

Legislative Updates

With the Legislature poised to adjourn “Sine Die” Sunday, April 23, this week focused on finalizing actions on outstanding bills while budget writers and the amazing staff worked to put together the Operating, Capital and Transportation budgets.

As of this writing, only one active early learning related bill has not advanced to the Governor’s desk – 2SHB 1550, related to Transitional Kindergarten. We will include a status update in a post-session email. You can also check the status of specific legislation on the legislative website or via Start Early Washington’s bill tracker on our resource page.

As a reminder, you can track the status of gubernatorial bill signings on this webpage. The final day for Governor Inslee to act on bills that reach his desk is May 16.

After gubernatorial action, attention turns to state agencies as they start implementing the policies and related funding included in the enacted bills. Implementation planning can take weeks to months, depending on the issue or program and the extent external parties are involved in development. Additionally, state agencies are beginning to develop decision packages outlining their policy and funding priorities for the 2024 legislative session. The legislative cycle is always in motion!

Trivia Answer

“The Kick” incident involved Governor Ernest Lister and First Lady Mary Alma Lister. This is the same Governor Lister mentioned in last week’s newsletter who moved his family out of the Governor’s mansion due to the home’s frigid temperatures.

Governor Ernest Lister (1870-1949)

Governor Ernest Lister (1870-1949)
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Governor Lister, a Democrat from Tacoma, was elected in 1912 by fewer than 1,000 votes. At the time of his election, the State Senate comprised 25 Republicans, 8 Democrats, 8 Progressives and one Independent. The House held 48 Republicans, 30 Progressives, 18 Democrats and one Socialist. In the House, the 18 Democrats joined with the 48 Republicans to elect a Republican speaker as the Democrats felt they shared more in common with the Republicans than the Progressives. From the start of his term, Governor Lister faced a rocky relationship with the Legislature, identifying more with the Progressives’ agenda than his fellow Democrats. (Note for future trivia – it would be interesting to look at when our state stopped electing candidates from the Progressive Party).

So, what was “The Kick?” First, some backstory. In the early 1910s, the funding and building of highways became a prominent issue as more Washingtonians purchased automobiles. During the 1913 legislative session, the Legislature and Governor could not reach agreement on the level of funding needed to address the growing demand for roads (sound familiar?).

In late February 1913, the Legislature passed a $1.5 million levy for road construction which the Governor promptly vetoed. An effort to override the Governor’s veto failed. At this point, it was Day 54 of the legislative session and legislative leadership wanted to deliver a highway funding bill to the Governor as soon as possible so the Governor would be forced to act on the bill before the Legislature left town. (Annual legislative sessions did not begin until 1980; in 1913, sessions were only 60 days long).

This is where it gets interesting. Remember, this was the time of actual paper delivery. After both chambers passed a new road funding bill between 5 – 6 p.m., an attempt to deliver it to the Governor’s office was thwarted as his office door was locked. That evening, a legislative ball was scheduled and legislative leadership hatched a plan to deliver the bill during the event. The Governor attended the ball – briefly – but dodged the delivery. (By now, you may have an image of someone avoiding a subpoena).

Next, the House Speaker directed the Chief Clerk of the House and the Chair of the Highway Committee to attempt delivery at the Governor’s mansion that same evening. When they arrived at the home, First Lady Mary Alma Lister answered the door and said the Governor was unavailable. The Chief Clerk and Committee Chair made a few more attempts, finally dropping the bill inside the mansion when Mrs. Lister answered the door. Mrs. Lister promptly responded by kicking the bill out of the house and it landed on the front porch. Hence “The Kick,” which spawned an editorial cartoon by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:


(Photo Credit: Washington State Archives)

Governor Lister did consider the bill delivered, and he took to the Senate Floor the following day to issue a veto and to chastise the Chief Clerk and Committee Chair for their rude demeanor toward his wife, using some choice words for the time. However, after the Speaker retorted with criticism of the Governor, the parties settled down to negotiate a compromise resulting in a $1.25 million highway appropriations bill. It is important to note that this package included funding for the Snoqualmie Pass (!), but Governor Lister did veto money for the Columbia River Bridge in Vancouver, an ongoing topic of discussion to this day.

I specifically included this “end-of-session” related trivia because it encapsulates many themes discussed in the past few newsletters — leveraging legislative rules to one’s advantage, heated tempers and ultimate compromise. Happy Sine Die!

The Kick

(Photo Credit: Washington State Archives)


Sources: History of the Washington Legislature 1856-1963 by Don Brazier, Wikipedia and Washington State Archives.

A Parting Construction Update …

It was both fitting and symbolic that workers made significant progress in demolishing the Irv Newhouse Building this week. The new, larger building should be open at the end of 2024.

From this …

Irv Newhouse Building


To this!

Irv Newhouse Building

We want to hear from you!

Thank you for reading “Notes from Olympia.” We welcome your feedback and suggestions of what you would like to see more or less of. And we always welcome your trivia suggestions!

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