Thursday, April 12, 2012

Legislature finishes, passes budget that supports early learning

The 2012 Legislature adjourned on April 11 after "double overtime" special sessions to tackle a revenue shortfall. On the last day, the Legislature passed a supplemental operating budget for the 2011-13 state biennium. For early learning, the budget included:
  • $1.1 million to implement an electronic attendance system for child care subsidies and to have an independent consultant evaluate and make recommendations on the optimum system for child care subsidy eligibility.
  • $1 million in additional state funding to implement the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), our state's kindergarten readiness assessment process.
  • Moving the Working Connections Child Care eligibility level up to 200 percent federal poverty level, and removing a requirement that the Department of Social and Health Services and the Department of Early Learning establish or enforce child support obligations.
  • Reducing DEL agency administration by $446,000.
  • Creating a birth-to-3 subcommittee of the Early Learning Advisory Council to make recommendations on how to move forward with our state's Birth to 3 Plan.
Read more about how early learning was impacted during the 2012 legislative session in DEL's 2012 legislative session highlights.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Washington’s state-funded preschool ranks high for funding and quality, low for access

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) today released its rankings of state preschool programs, and once again Washington’s program ranked among the top in the nation for quality, but landed 31st out of 39 states that provide state-funded preschool in 2010-11 for access.

Not surprisingly, the study found many states are seeing declining funding for preschool programs. The State of Preschool 2011: State Preschool Yearbook shows total state funding for the nation’s pre-K programs decreased by nearly $60 million from the previous year to the 2010-2011 school year. In the past 10 years, real spending on state pre-K has declined by about 15 percent, or more than $700 per child.

Washington’s state-funded preschool program is the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), which has been serving Washington preschoolers for 25 years. ECEAP serves 3- and 4-year-olds whose families’ incomes are at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level ($24,585 for a family of four). Sixty four percent of ECEAP families are at or below annual incomes of $17,880 for a family of four.

Here is a breakdown of NIEER’s rankings for Washington:
  • Washington meets nine out of 10 benchmarks for preschool education quality, up from six out of 10 in 2001-02. The one benchmark Washington does not meet is requiring a bachelor’s degree for the lead teacher in ECEAP programs. While 42 percent of ECEAP teachers have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, the current standard requires an Associate of Arts degree.  
  • For access to the state pre-K program, Washington ranked 31 out of 39 states that provide state-funded preschool programs: Just 8 percent of Washington’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in ECEAP.
  • Washington ranked 7 out of 39 for spending on state-funded preschool: Per-child funding has fared better than other states in the past 10 years. Washington spent $6,780 per enrolled child in 2010-11.
  • Washington spent $54.4 million on ECEAP in 2010-11.

“Washington’s program remains well-funded, dropping real per-child funding only slightly in 2010-2011, and the quality is there,” said Steve Barnett, director of the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University that has surveyed state preschool programs on a number of measures since 2001-2002. “As one of the states to receive an Early Learning Challenge grant in 2011, there is hope of improving early learning opportunities for preschoolers in Washington.”

View NIEER’s report for 2011: 
Read the Associated Press story about Washington's ranking.