Friday, October 21, 2011

DEL updates House Early Learning & Human Services Committee on progress

Leaders from the Department of Early Learning (DEL) presented to the House Early Learning & Human Services Committee on Wednesday about our progress in several areas since the Legislature adjourned in May. Watch the presentation to hear the latest on the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, efforts to promote quality in licensed child care, home visiting and more.

The PowerPoint presentation DEL used is available online here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Washington throws its hat in the ring for federal early learning grant

Washington state has submitted its application for a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant. The federal grant will provide $500 million in state-level competitive grants to improve early learning and development programs. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is leading Washington’s application for the grant, which could bring up to $60 million to our state over four years to support early learning for our children.

RTT-ELC is meant to help states raise the quality of early learning programs so that children start school ready to succeed.
Governor Chris Gregoire said of Washington's application, “This application is bold and it is ambitious, but it is also achievable, and that is what the grant competition is all about. We have submitted a plan that will push our state forward in providing the kind of high-quality early learning opportunities our youngest learners need and deserve."

Washington's application lays out a plan for how to use the grant money:
  • Expand the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), our state’s kindergarten readiness assessment, to include all incoming kindergarteners by school year 2014-15.
  • Take to scale our state’s quality rating and improvement system, which helps early learning programs improve the quality of care and education they provide to young children and provides information on quality to families.
  • Enhance the state professional development system by offering awards and incentives to those who work with and care for young children.
"This is an important opportunity to help Washington children," DEL Director Bette Hyde said. "Washington is uniquely positioned to move forward quickly if we win a grant because of the work we’ve already done with WaKIDS and QRIS."

DEL created a webpage to keep the early learning community informed about progress on RTT-ELC. That page includes fast facts about Washington's application.

The Associated Press ran a story about Washington's application, "State seeks $60M from feds for preschools."

Today, DEL representatives updated the House Early Learning & Human Services Committee about the RTT-ELC and other DEL news. That hearing will be available on TVW's website.

DEL will continue to tweet information about the application and related news using the hashtag #rttt (which stands for Race to the Top) at

Friday, October 7, 2011

Governor, families, teachers join DEL in celebrating 25 years of ECEAP

Almost 170,000 children have been part of the state-funded preschool program (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP) since it began in 1985. Last night, families, ECEAP graduates, teachers and state leaders celebrated 25 years of growing Washington’s future at an ECEAP reception in Olympia.

Governor Chris Gregoire kicked off the evening, saying, “If we get it right early with a child, then they will succeed in school and they will succeed in life, and they won’t end up in the safety net.” Watch the Governor’s remarks on DEL’s YouTube channel.

Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, spoke about her experience as the first ECEAP staff member in 1985. She wrote the first set of ECEAP performance standards and set up the first pilots around the state.

Another highlight of the evening was Melissa Estrada, a former ECEAP student who graduated valedictorian of her high school and is now studying to become a nurse.

Watch for photos from the evening and a special 25th anniversary publication, “ECEAP: Making a Difference,” to be posted soon on the ECEAP section of the DEL website.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New rules for Working Connections Child Care in effect

The Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy program rules changed on Oct. 1, 2011. DEL wants to make sure you know about the changes.

WCCC basics
WCCC helps eligible families with low incomes pay for child care while they work or meet WorkFirst participation requirements.

What changed? The most recent rule changes:
  • Made permanent emergency rules about entry caps, waiting lists, income limits and copayments to ensure the WCCC budget meets limits established by legislation and the Governor.
  • Addressed compliance with federal and state audit requirements.
  • Clarified several rules to streamline applying for and receiving benefits, and qualifying to be paid as an in-home or relative provider.

Some notable changes include:
  • Every applicant must go through the WCCC application process, regardless of their participation in other DSHS assistance programs.
  • The benefits start date is now the same for TANF and non-TANF recipients. All applicants must complete the application and verification process within 30 days. Applicants who do not meet the deadline must re-apply if they want to receive benefits.
  • Rules around verifying income and employment now allow providing a previous year’s income tax return and allow untaxed, in-kind income and taxable corporate compensation to be counted as income.
  • DSHS must verify the citizenship or legal residency of all children who participate in the program.
  • Benefits are provided only for hours when parents work outside of the home.
  • Self-employed applicants or recipients must provide additional verification such as a business license or registration and a self-employment plan.
  • An in-home or relative provider who cares for children receiving WCCC benefits may not receive WCCC benefits for his or her own children during those same hours.

 More information is available on DEL’s website at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) retreat information now online

The Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) held a full-day retreat on Aug. 31 at the Lacey Community Center. The retreat was meant to build relationships among ELAC members, including several newly appointed members; develop the ELAC functions and guiding principles; and identify potential early actions for the group. The retreat was open to the public.

Some ELAC members are appointed by the Governor. Others are appointed by various organizations as required by state law. ELAC members provide input and recommmendations to DEL so that our strategies and actions are well-informed and broadly supported by parents, early care providers, health/safety experts and interested parties.

Here’s ELAC member Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, on why early learning is important for him and how he expects to help ELAC reach its objectives:

And here’s Educational Service District 105 Early Learning Director Cynthia Juarez, a Governor’s appointee:

For more information on ELAC and to view the agenda and related materials from the ELAC retreat, visit

Monday, October 3, 2011

National Child Health Day -- helping children lead healthy lives

Today is the 83rd annual National Child Health Day. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created a website to feature important resources that assist families in finding health care services. Resources featured on the website include the 311 Prenatal Hotline, Insure Kids Now, Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, Text 4 Baby, Find a Health Center Locator and the Maternal and Child Health Program.

Take a look at