As incoming head of the state Department of Early Learning, Ross Hunter should continue using his data-driven leadership style to ensure better outcomes for Washington’s youngest learners.

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STATE Rep. Ross Hunter is leaving the Legislature after 13 years, but fortunately for Washington residents, he won’t be leaving Olympia.

The Medina Democrat is shifting gears to head the state Department of Early Learning at a time when Washington is investing big in its youngest students. The 2015-2017 Legislature allocated $306 million in state money for early learning — nearly double the amount from the previous biennium.

State officials expect that the push to expand access to early learning programs, establish standards and increase their quality will improve outcomes for years to come. The payoff will be more students, of all backgrounds and income levels, arriving at kindergarten ready to learn and achieving more throughout their educational careers.

A seasoned, smart and pragmatic leader like Hunter at the helm of that important venture is a welcome development. On the downside, Hunter leaves a large void as chief Democratic budget writer on the House Appropriations Committee.

Crafting and negotiating the state budget was especially arduous this year as the legislative session stretched into July and lawmakers clashed on major components such as education and state-employee compensation.

Hunter was an early advocate of reforming the state’s overreliance on local levies to pay for basic education in response to the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling. He should continue pushing for levy reform as a member of Gov. Jay Inslee’s cabinet.

Hunter, a former Microsoft executive, made a name for himself as a “numbers guy” — a data-driven approach that he coupled with a passion for improving public education. That combination will serve the Department of Early Learning well.

Information in this article, originally published Sept. 2, 2015, was corrected Sept. 3, 2015. A previous version of this story included the wrong title for Ross Hunter. He is a state representative.