Stock photo, Metro Creative Graphics

Stock photo, Metro Creative Graphics

State awards two Kent early learning centers grants of $1 million

Part of state Department of Commerce program to create more early learning spaces

Two early learning centers in Kent will receive grants of $1 million each from the state Department of Commerce to help address significant need for more early learning spaces in Washington.

The Little Multilingual Education Group, 1048 W. James St., in Kent, will receive $1 million to add 68 new spaces, according to an April 13 Department of Commerce news release. A group called Silver Lane, which apparently does not have a current early learning center, will receive $1 million to build 100 spaces at a site that has not been publicly disclosed.

In partnership with the state Department of Children, Youth and Families, the state Department of Commerce announced that it has awarded $43.2 million in grants to 69 early learning projects in 22 counties across the state.

The grants provide financial assistance to allow Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program contractors and Working Connections Child Care providers to plan, expand, remodel, purchase or construct early learning facilities and classrooms.

The state Department of Commerce declined to release to the Kent Reporter the applications filed by Little Multilingual Education Group and Silver Lane in an effort to find out more details about the two grant winners. The Kent Reporter has filed a public disclosure request for more information. The state Department of Commerce states on its website that due to a staffing shortage requests may be delayed up to 60 days or more before documents are released.

“My understanding is that there may be sensitive financial or personally identifiable information in the applications that may require redaction before release, so you will need to enter a public records request via our website so that the documents can be reviewed prior to sharing,” said Penny Thomas, a state Department of Commerce spokesperson, in an email to the Kent Reporter.

The Little Multilingual Education Group did not respond to a voicemail from the Kent Reporter for comment about the $1 million grant. No contact information could be found for Silver Lane.

According to the website, Little Multilingual Education Group has been state licensed since June 10, 2021 as a child care center and has a capacity of 45. It serves children from birth to age 13 and instructs in Chinese-Cantonese, Chinese-Mandarin, English and Spanish.

“Early learning is a critical part of the state’s essential infrastructure for both families and our economy,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown in the news release. “This investment in facilities in our state will help communities ensure safe, secure and stable early learning opportunities are accessible for everyone. This is critical for an equitable recovery for the state’s economy and families, and is vital to helping ensure that children succeed.”

The partnership between the commerce department and the Department of Children, Youth and Families highlights the significance of child care and early learning opportunities for all Washington families, businesses and communities, according to the news release. Most importantly, access to high-quality early learning opportunities contributes to kindergarten and school readiness and healthy child development.

“This is an educational issue, and an economic one,” according to the news release. “Research from the Washington Child Care Collaborative Task Force in 2021 indicates that lack of access to affordable child care keeps over 133,000 potential workers out of Washington’s labor force, resulting in an estimated $14.7 billion less in personal earnings, and over $1 billion in lost tax revenue annually.”

Ross Hunter, secretary of the Department of Children, Youth and Families, said it’s an important investment.

“Communities are stronger when there is enough access to high-quality early learning for all children, regardless of family income,” Hunter said. “The Legislature has wisely invested in the buildings and classrooms needed to provide this level of care.”

The state Department of Commerce received 143 applications requesting a total of $72.9 million.

The facilities receiving funding are across the state and serve diverse populations in rural, suburban and urban communities to create early learning opportunities for children.

The commerce department awarded projects in three categories: pre-design ($20,000 award limit); minor renovation and pre-development ($200,000 award limit); and new construction and major renovation ($1 million award limit).

When making award decisions, commerce and the Department of Children, Youth and Families evaluated key project criteria such as the number of early learning spaces for kids from low-income families, the project location relative to other early learning facilities, projects located in rural locations and low-income neighborhoods and other factors.

Visit Early Learning Facilities on the commerce website to learn more about the grant program.

Other Kent awards

Cherubs Nursery School, 11603 SE 256th St., received a grant of $200,000 to use toward eight new spaces, according to the state Department of Commerce.

Dahabo Daycare, 25114 118th Ave. SE., received $90,000 to be used toward 18 new spaces.

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