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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Homeless, Neglected Children Among Waitlisted For State Funded Preschool

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Washington state has a plan to fully fund preschool for low-income children by 2020. The current state budget adds more slots. Even so, many thee and four-year-olds remain on a waitlist.

Some of them are homeless or have suffered abuse and neglect.

Currently, more than 2,000 Washington children are waiting for state-funded preschool. Of those, more than 600 are in the highest-priority category for a slot. These are children living in extreme poverty.

“You’re really looking at kids who are homeless, who are involved in the child welfare system,” said Katy Warren, deputy director at the Washington State Association of Head Start & ECEAP.

She said there’s capacity in the system to add 1,000 more children starting next fall, but not the funding.

“If a kid does not get this and we know that there’s capacity, it is a sad day,” Warren said.

Governor Jay Inslee’s proposed update to the state’s two-year budget does not include more money for preschool. He said there are lots of good ideas the state “simply cannot afford at this time.”

Advocates plan to lobby lawmakers for more funding in the upcoming legislative session.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."