Washington’s Early Childhood Education Career and Wage Ladder

First instituted in 2000, the Early Childhood Education Career and Wage Ladder (the Ladder) sought to improve the quality of child care by supporting the career goals of child care workers, based on policy research indicating the most important elements of high quality early childhood education are the compensation, consistency and education of child care teachers.

The Ladder created incentives for child care teachers to pursue higher education relevant to early childhood education, and to excel in their chosen field of work. Governor Gary Locke allocated $4 million of surplus funds from low-income assistance programs in 2000, and $8 million for the 2001-2003 biennium, to the program. Approximately 125 centers were included in the Ladder, covering about 1500 employees who cared for 15,000 children. The Ladder was not refunded for the 2003-2005 biennium, due to recessionary impacts on spending. In 2005, Washington lawmakers enacted legislation (HB 1636) putting the Ladder into state statute.

In 2006, the legislators allocated $1 million for Ladder for Fiscal Year 2007. In 2007, the Legislature allocated $3 million for the 2007-2009 biennium. This funding covers 70 centers across the state. The cost is about $250 per child per year, and represents both a frugal and robust intervention to catalyze high quality child care in Washington.

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