Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012 regular legislative session wrap-up: How did early learning fare?

The 60-day 2012 legislative session will end today, and several important early learning bills are heading to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature. The Legislature does not appear likely to pass a supplemental operating budget before the session ends (no later than midnight tonight). Gov. Gregoire will determine when to call the Legislature back to finish that work, which could be as early as next week. View the latest versions of the House and Senate budget proposals online here.

Legislators continued to support and focus on early learning as a smart investment this session. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) and partners presented to legislators on a variety of topics, including:

• Our transition plan to move duties of the Council for Children & Families to DEL on July 1
• The updated family home child care licensing rules that go into effect on March 31
• Our state’s $60 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant
• Child care subsidies

Find the video and PowerPoint presentations from all DEL legislative work sessions online here.

Among the key early learning bills passed:

House Bill 2586, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park (Senate version sponsored by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell): Moves our state forward with implementation of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WAKIDS. States legislative intent that WaKIDS replace other school district assessments, unless the district is seeking information not addressed through WaKIDS. Enhances parent and educator input on WaKIDS implementation. Allows districts to apply for waivers from WaKIDS until full statewide implementation of state-funded full-day kindergarten in school year 2017-2018.
Senate Bill 6226, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle: Extends the authorization period for Working Connections Child Care subsidies to 12 months for qualifying families.
Senate Bill 5715, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle: Requires DEL to adopt and implement core competencies for early care and education professionals and child and youth development professionals and review them every five years. These are a key foundation for our state’s professional development system.

Early learning bills that did not pass include:

House Bill 2658, sponsored by Rep. Kagi: Would have allowed child care employees who work in a school district or educational school district to undergo only a DEL background check and be exempt from the district background check.
House Bill 2569, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines: Would have put more detail in statute about the purpose and goals of Washington’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system.
House Bill 2608, sponsored by Rep. Kagi (Senate version sponsored by Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett): Would have put the state Early Learning Guidelines into statute and require DEL, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Thrive by Five Washington to periodically review and update them.
House Bill 2448, sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland (Senate version sponsored by Sen. Harper): Would have created a voluntary state preschool program as an entitlement, per the recommendations of a legislatively mandated work group.
House Bill 2646, sponsored by Rep. Kagi: Would have exempted the personal information of children in for-profit licensed child care from public disclosure. Personal information for children in nonprofit child care is exempt from public disclosure.

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