Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Feds share long-awaited details on Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge

The speculation about an early learning-focused “Race to the Top” competition has been building for months, and today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced a $500 million Early Learning Challenge competition among states.

“Race to the Top was an absolute game changer,” said Secretary Duncan during a press conference this morning. “We’re looking to have the same impact here in…early learning.”

States that successfully secure Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants will have comprehensive plans for an early learning system with clear standards, good coordination among early learning partners, robust evaluation systems, information for parents, and quality professional development for those who work with young children. With our state Early Learning Plan already in place, the early learning community in Washington is excited to compete for these funds.

As Secretary Sebelius noted this morning, “A lot of this work has been going on in states for really a decade or more. We want to be informed by best practices and help raise the bar and drive those practices even further.”

RTTT-ELC grants will be awarded by the end of calendar year 2011. Many questions about the application process remain, but one thing is clear: With such a short timeline, states’ applications will need to be out the door within a few months.

The public can give input to the process by visiting The U.S. Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services will jointly administer the grant, and say guidance and information about eligibility, range of awards and number of grants is coming in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reminder to child care providers: Take your subsidy billing training!

If you get state child care subsidy payments as a licensed family home child care provider or in-home/relative provider, you must take subsidy billing training by June 30. This training will help you understand how to correctly bill for subsidy payment.

You can take this training in any of these ways:

1. Online. Go to and click on “Child Care Subsidy Billing Training.”
2. In class. Call the Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network at 1.800.446.1114. Enter your zip code at the prompt to connect with your local resource & referral program to sign up for class.
3. Self-paced workbook. Call your local resource & referral program (see step 2 above) to have this workbook mailed to you.

For more information on child care subsidies, please visit the Department of Early Learning child care subsidy page. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Big news for WaKIDS! Kindergarten transition bill signed into law

On Thursday, Governor Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5427, which will support school readiness for the 70,000-plus children who enter kindergarten in Washington each year.

Governor Gregoire signs WaKIDS bill, with DEL Director Bette Hyde, Rep. Ruth Kagi and early learning advocates looking on.
 SB 5427 names the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) as the kindergarten transition process for all state-funded full-day kindergarten classes. This is voluntary during school year 2011-2012, and mandatory for those classes beginning in school year 2012-2013. The bill is contingent upon funding in the final 2011-2013 state operating budget. Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe sponsored the bill (Rep. Ruth Kagi sponsored the House version).

So why WaKIDS? This program—which DEL and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction are piloting in 120 classrooms around the state right now—brings together families, early learning providers and kindergarten teachers to help get every child off to a strong start in kindergarten. 

First, teachers meet one-on-one with families to learn more about the children they will be teaching—their hopes, their strengths and needs, their worries and their family culture. Then, teachers get a snapshot of their students through an assessment of the child’s social/emotional; cognitive; linguistic; and physical development. And finally, the barriers between early learning and kindergarten are removed as teachers and early learning providers meet together to share information about children.

The University of Washington will deliver a final evaluation of the WaKIDS pilot year next month. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Thrive by Five Washington provided additional funding for the pilot year.

Good things happen for children when the right people are at the table—WaKIDS helps bring those people together. In Maryland, for example, where they’ve had a kindergarten readiness assessment since 2001, the percent of kindergarteners ready for school rose 32 points during the decade, from 49 percent to 81 percent. A report on Maryland’s success is available online.

Learn more about Washington’s efforts at

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Governor signs three child care licensing bills

Governor Gregoire just finished signing three bills that will help support safe child care settings and improve efficiency in our licensing practice.

Senate Bill 5504, known as the Colby Thompson Act, is meant to help crack down on unlicensed child care in Washington. It requires that DEL post on our website information about individuals who have not started the licensing process within 30 days of being notified that they are offering illegal, unlicensed care. The bill also boosts the potential penalty for family home child care providers offering unlicensed care from $75 per day to $150 per day. (Center penalties remain at $250 per day.) The bill was sponsored by Sen. Tracey Eide.

Under House Bill 1903, DEL will create a portable background check registry by July 1, 2012. After clearing a background check, child care licensees and their employees will be issued a three-year clearance card, which they can use at various child care facilities. This will help employees who wish to work in more than one place, and will help licensees by not requiring them to wait for a new hire’s background check to clear. The bill has protections to ensure DEL is made aware if something happens that could change an individual’s cleared background check status.

This bill also will require all individuals newly working in licensed child care starting July 1, 2012, who may have unsupervised access to children in care to undergo a fingerprint-based criminal background check. This currently is required only of individuals who have lived in the state less than three years. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall.

Senate Bill 5625 moves Washington to a non-expiring child care license system for those licensed providers in good standing. DEL will continue to monitor licensed family homes at least once every 18 months, and licensed centers at least once a year. However, licensees in good standing will no longer have to go through the reapplication process every three years. This will streamline paperwork for providers and for DEL. We will use any time saved to work with providers on offering quality care, to meet our GMAP licensing measures, and to do our other licensing-related functions.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Nick Harper (Rep. Mary Helen Roberts sponsored the House version).

Big day for child care in Washington!

DEL Director Bette Hyde joins Governor Gregoire, Senator Nick Harper and others for the signing of Senate Bill 5625.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Free Infant Information to Moms’ Phones

Happy Mother’s Day! Did you know you can sign up for free text messages about pregnancy and infant health sent to your cell phone?

Text4baby, the country's first free, health information texting program. Text "BABY" (or “BEBE” for Spanish) to 511411. You’ll get weekly text messages timed to your due date or your baby’s birth date through the baby’s first year.

Text4baby is a service of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. The Washington State Department of Health is a partner of this effort to help pregnant women and new moms give their children a healthy start on life.