Friday, January 10, 2014

What to watch for in the 2014 legislative session

The 2014 legislative session begins on Monday, Jan. 13. It is scheduled to last 60 days. Although this is a "short session," there will be plenty of focus on early learning. Some early learning issues to watch this session: 

  • Supporting high-quality early learning opportunities. Expect legislators to introduce several bills relating to expanding early learning opportunities. Many policy ideas will stem from the Child Care Improvements for the Future Task Force recommendations issued in December. Others are next steps from House Bill 1723 from the 2013 session, which laid out a vision for full-day, high-quality early learning opportunities. 
    • There will be measures relating to supporting continuity of child care by ensuring families get 12-month subsidy authorization with fewer exceptions. 
    • Also expected are measures aiming to strengthen Early Achievers as our state's measure of quality in all early learning programs, and looking at how we can help programs use different public funding sources to support high-quality, full-day programming for children.
  • Childhood obesity prevention. Gov. Jay Inslee has requested funding to support his Healthiest Next Generation initiative, which focuses on making sure state agencies are coordinating on policies and programs that support children and families in healthy development. The Department of Health will request a bill relating to this.
  • Child safety. Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park, has dropped a bill that would require the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to conduct reviews on any child fatality in a licensed child care or state-funded preschool program. (House Bill 2165)
  • Background checks. DEL and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction are requesting legislation to streamline the background check process for child care employees who work in school district settings.
DEL has several presentations to legislative committees scheduled on topics including early intervention for infants and toddlers, home visiting, and parenting education. Find committee schedules on the Legislature's website at

Monday, January 6, 2014

Highlights from Gov. Inslee's proposed supplemental budget

Gov. Jay Inslee recently released his proposed supplemental budget, which includes additional support for early learning. His proposal now goes to the Legislature for consideration during the 2014 legislative session. A supplemental budget is a “course correction” budget in the middle of a biennium (right now we’re in the 2013-15 state operating budget) to adjust for unexpected costs such as increased caseloads. 
Highlights for early learning include:
  • A proposed additional 500 Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) slots for school year 2014-15 (in addition to 1,700 slots already added in the 2013-15 biennium)
  • Increasing child care subsidy base rates for family homes.
  • Adding a staff member at DEL to work with other state agencies to develop and execute strategies to prevent childhood obesity (the Healthiest Next Generation initiative)
  • Funding the Medicaid Treatment Child Care program with state dollars while we continue to work with Health Care Authority on making the program—or elements of the program—eligible for Medicaid reimbursement again.