Today the Lt. Governor closed out the annual Children’s Alliance Luncheon as keynote speaker, emphasizing the necessity of providing opportunities for children from infancy to adulthood – not just in childcare and early learning, but all the way through post-secondary education as well.
The Children’s Alliance is comprised of a coalition of 125 different child advocacy organizations, whose work focuses primarily on promoting children’s health, early learning, and resolving inequities in childhood services throughout Washington state.
The Lt. Governor echoed the mission of the Children’s Alliance in its commitment to providing opportunities for children across socio-economic and cultural barriers, and advocated passionately for a long-term, education-based approach to the issue.
The Lt. Governor began by offering a few statistics on higher education and its affect on later prosperity:
“Throughout their working lives, college graduates earn about 65% more than high school graduates.”
“Of jobs lost during the recession, 4 out of 5 of those were jobs that required a high school education or less.”
On this disparity, the Lt. Governor said, “We can’t have this two-track approach to society.” Rather than relegating certain sectors of society to lower-paying careers, vulnerable to market changes, by saying “college isn’t for everyone,” the Lt. Governor said, we should be expanding access to college – supporting our children equally in their ability to apply for, pay for, and succeed in, college. Further, he emphasized, college readiness is a children’s issue as much as it is a young adult and adult issue – because what we choose to ready our children for as adults will inform how we invest in K-12, in early learning, and even in children’s health.
The Lt. Governor highlighted his own work within his office to bring higher education opportunities to underserved students throughout our state. By creating the AP Access Fund, the Lt. Governor provided an opportunity for 15,000 low-income students to take AP exams. By creating an upcoming study abroad program, the Lt. Governor will expand student’s access to travel opportunities. And by creating a high school counselors recognition program, the Lt. Governor will promote the work of some of the best supporters of our students’ future.
Finally, the Lt. Governor concluded by explaining how he came to personally value equal access so deeply. There were several examples throughout his childhood when teachers, parents, and others, initially believed that a blind child could not fully participate in the same opportunities other children were taking advantage of – whether that be at recess, in geography class, or on field trips – only to realize, after fierce advocacy from his parents, his teachers, or himself, that he was fully capable.
“To say that ‘playgrounds aren’t for everyone’; ‘recess isn’t for everyone’; ‘health insurance isn’t for every kid’ — documented or undocumented, black, brown, or white – ‘early learning isn’t for everyone’; ‘geography, Model UN, advanced placement, study abroad’ – whenever we say any of these isn’t for everyone, we’re saying ‘prosperity isn’t for everyone,’ the Lt. Governor finished.