Monday, March 29, 2010

Governor signs early learning bills!

Today, Governor Chris Gregoire signed several early learning bills during a packed and enthusiastic ceremony at her alma mater, Auburn High School (see photo at right). We are excited that these bills move our state forward in ensuring high-quality early learning opportunities for children and families.

The bills "recognize that learning starts from the moment that a little one greets the world,” Gov. Gregoire said. "This is a defining moment in the state of Washington."

The bills signed today are:
  • Senate Bill 6593, which transfers the Infant Toddler Early Intervention Program to DEL from the Department of Social and Health Services. It also renames the program to “Early Support for Infants and Toddlers.” This move was supported by leaders of both DEL and DSHS as a strategic way to better align early learning services under one entity.
  • Preschool bills:
    • HB 2731 phases in enrollment of additional eligible children to the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), starting in the 2013-14 school year. This is aligned with the phase-in of all-day kindergarten. ECEAP standards and eligibility criteria would be used to start, and DEL would work during the phase-in to adopt rules for program components.  Upon full implementation in the 2018-2019 school year, any eligible child will be entitled to enroll. The bill also adds children eligible for special education services, regardless of income, as a specific eligible group in ECEAP.
    • SB 6759 directs DEL and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to pull together a work group by April 1 to develop a plan for a voluntary program of early learning. The group will review the options of a pre-k program as a part of state basic education or as an entitlement, and recommend: child and provider eligibility criteria: program standards: performance measures: governance responsibilities; ECEAP’s role; funding; and timelines for implementation. Recommendations are due to the Quality Education Council (QEC) and the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) in November 2011, with a progress report in July 2011. The QEC, after gathering input from ELAC, will submit a plan to the Legislature by July 2012. 
  • HB 2867 directs DEL, Thrive by Five Washington and ELAC to develop a plan by December 1, 2010, for creating a continuum of services and support for children birth-to-3. DEL and partners have begun this work, with an “Infant Toddler Think Tank” in December.
 The Governor previously signed SB 5617, which clarified the duties and membership of ELAC.

With the ongoing special legislative session, we are still monitoring several budget issues, including: a proviso that would require DEL to report on making child care licensing improvements; creation of a home visiting services account; and Working Connections Child Care subsidy program funding. Keep watching this blog for the latest!

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