“Washington is clearly well-positioned to hit the ground running if Congress passes the Strong Start for America’s Children Act,” said DEL Director Bette Hyde. “We’ve been working diligently in Washington to build a statewide early learning system with our Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant win in December 2011. Funding through this bill would allow us to reach even more children and families who have not yet benefitted from early learning services.”
The legislation would greatly increase the quality of and access to early learning programs for children birth to 5. Here’s what the bill proposes, followed in bullets by what’s happening in Washington and what we would need to do:
Fund states’ efforts to provide high-quality, full-day, voluntary preschool for low- and moderate-income families up to 200 percent federal poverty level (an annual income of $46,100 for a family of four). The funds would be distributed proportionally to states with the highest number of 4-year-olds who live at or below the poverty level.
- Washington is expanding its state-funded preschool program, ECEAP, to serve all eligible 3- and 4-year-olds by the 2018-19 school year, at which point it will be a statutory entitlement. The Legislature has invested $22 million in additional ECEAP funding for the 2013-15 biennium. This school year, we are serving 350 additional children. In 2014-15, we will serve an additional 1,350 children. According to caseload estimates, an additional 2,400 slots per school year after that would be needed to serve all eligible children whose families choose to enroll them by school year 2018-19.
- Washington meets many of the proposed
- Having state-level early learning standards in place.
- Small class sizes and low adult-to-child ratios.
- Offering comprehensive services.
- Pre-k data linked with K-12 data.
- State advisory council.
- Comprehensive early learning assessments.
- Requirements that would need additional work/investment in Washington:
- Teachers have bachelor’s degrees and demonstrate competence in early childhood education. ECEAP requires an AA for lead teachers. Currently, 45 percent of ECEAP lead teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree.
- Teachers are paid comparably to K-12 staff. DEL does not establish salary rates for ECEAP—that is determined at the local level by contractors.
- Full-day services. ECEAP requires a minimum of 2.5 class hours per day, 30 weeks per year. The proposal calls for five to six class hours per day, five days per week. The legislative task force established in Senate Bill 5595 is exploring ways to integrate child care and ECEAP to provide a high-quality, full-day experience. The task force’s recommendations are due to the Legislature in December.
Increase the quality of infant and toddler care in child care centers and family home child care settings. The bill provides grants for licensed child care providers to partner with Early Head Start programs, which serve infants and toddlers, to improve the quality of their care and to serve more young children who live at or below poverty. These partnerships would blend federal funds to provide high-quality, full-day care for infants and toddlers.
- Washington provides infant-toddler consultations to licensed child care providers to help improve the quality of care they provide to infants and toddlers. The consultations are research-and evidence-based and are provided by trained professionals free of charge.
- Washington is exploring ways to improve infant/toddler care and better support infant/toddler child care providers through Early Achievers, our state’s quality rating and improvement system.
Support child care quality improvements that are funded by the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which pays for subsidized child care. The bill would provide grants to states to increase the quality standards of subsidized child care to improve the health, safety and school readiness of children. It would require training and professional development of child care providers, bonuses for child care providers who earn increased credentials or degrees, technical assistance for child care providers and improved health and safety licensing standards. It also would require 12-month subsidy authorization for families.
- Early Achievers is available to all child care providers and offers supports to providers including training, scholarships, financial rewards, and coaching. In September 2013, the subsidized child care base rate was increased by 2 percent for providers who enroll in Early Achievers and are rated at a Level 2 or higher. Providers must be rated at a Level 3 or higher within 30 months to maintain the 2 percent increase.
- Through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, Washington offers awards to individuals who join our professional development registry (MERIT) and move up the career lattice.
- Washington moved to 12-month subsidy authorization in 2012, unless a change in a family’s circumstances necessitates reauthorization sooner than 12 months.
Encourage continued support for home visiting through the federal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. Nearly half of infants and toddlers live in homes with a family income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level; home visiting supports the healthy development of our nation’s most at-risk children in their earliest years. Congress is recognizing the importance of providing continued, robust funding to the MIECHV program so that children and families can continue to receive access to high-quality, evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs.
- Washington has a strong home visiting partnership between DEL, Thrive by Five Washington and others. We currently serve about 1,700 families with evidence-based home visiting programs with a mix of federal, state and private dollars, but know the need is much greater. Washington currently receives both formula and competitive MIECHV funds.
- Read an editorial by Sen. Murray about the Strong Start for America's Children Act.
- Read a statement about the bill from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan
- Read the Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013 House Bill and Senate Bill.
- Read the summary of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act of 2013.
- Learn more about the President’s Early Learning Initiative.