Monday, August 14, 2017

Early Achievers – August 1, 2017 Milestone

Story Time 
The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is proud to announce that Washington’s early learning system has reached another Early Start Act milestone!  In 2016, all early learning providers accepting state child care subsidies made a commitment to quality improvement through participation in Early Achievers, Washington’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.  With the support of Early Achievers coaches at our partner Child Care Aware of Washington, these providers have spent the past year working to complete the Early Achievers Professional Training Series before the August 1, 2017 milestone mandated by the Early Start Act of 2015.  We are thrilled to share, as of August 1, 2017, 97 percent of mandated providers met this important milestone in quality improvement.  

Reaching this milestone has been a team effort and we are incredibly proud of the work that our partners and participants have done to accomplish this latest achievement:

  • In the past year, more than 1,500 licensed child care providers completed Early Achievers Level 2 activities, meaning the vast majority of licensed providers who accept state subsidies met the recent Early Start Act milestone. 
  • Early Achievers participants received a combined 81,277 hours of coaching, technical assistance and consultation, offered in English, Spanish, Somali, Russian from our wonderful partners at Child Care Aware.
  • As of now, approximately 71 percent of all licensed child care providers are participating in Early Achievers.

Today, more than 3,900 early learning providers in Washington participate in Early Achievers. Their dedication to continuous improvement and ongoing evaluation has a direct impact on kindergarten readiness for children across the state and we are proud to support their efforts. DEL and its partners will continue to offer a variety of supports and resources as we prepare Early Achievers participants for their next milestone of rating Level 3 or higher by the end of 2019. We will also continue to evaluate the Early Achievers system to ensure the quality standards lead to the kindergarten readiness, at the core of our mission and purpose. This latest successful milestone brings us one step closer to our goal of getting 90 percent of kids ready for kindergarten by 2020.
Want to know what providers are saying about the Early Achievers experience? Watch Child Care Aware of Washington’s Impact video series here: http://wa.childcareaware.org/providers/early-achievers

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

DEL to Have Strong, Familiar Leadership During Transition Year

Heather Moss and Ross Hunter
Starting August 1st, I will officially begin serving as the Secretary of the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).  While I’m excited about the opportunities we have to help improve outcomes for Washington’s most at-risk kids, I want to make sure we continue the crazy good work we’re doing here at DEL. I am pleased to tell you that Governor Inslee just offered our Deputy Director, Heather Moss, the position of DEL Director during this important transition year. 

Collectively, we have a lot of work to do in the next year to stand up the new DCYF, and I look forward to working with many of you to make this transition successful.  In the meantime, there is a lot of work still happening at DEL that needs the full energy and attention of a strong leadership team, and someone who knows the work intimately to steer the ship. I am extremely grateful to have Heather in this role.

In the almost two years that I’ve worked with her at DEL, she has been an excellent right-hand-woman, and she is well positioned to support DEL through this transition year. Below is a brief statement from her.  

Ross Hunter  






Dear DEL community,  

I am happy to serve as the Director of DEL during this important transition year. I am so proud of the work we all do here at DEL, and I have great respect for the partners, child care providers, Home Visitors, and everyone else who makes this a strong early learning system. As the Director, my focus will be on three areas:  
  • Hold steady on the important work we are currently doing here at DEL; 
  • Identify and celebrate the unique culture and values of the early learning field that we want to retain as we transition into DCYF; and
  • Partner with Ross and his transition team to manage a successful integration of DEL (and CA and JR) into DCYF. 
I have been at DEL for about 3 ½ years now and have seen our agency change, grow, and mature during that time. Since DEL’s inception 11 years ago there have been even more changes which have consistently improved the system, so I am confident we can successfully take on this new challenge of merging into DCYF. 

Our structure may look a bit different this year and next, but the work that each of you do is and will remain an important part of the early learning system in Washington State. We’ve got this! I am looking forward to working with you over this coming year; please reach out via email or phone to share your ideas and input!  

Thanks, 

Heather Moss



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Success! Announcing Expansion of ECEAP, Washington’s Preschool for Vulnerable Children


After a very long budget year, we are excited to announce that more at-risk children and families will have access to high-quality preschool, health services coordination, and family support this fall as a result of new funding for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). The Legislature invested $7,710,000 to create spaces for 800 more children for the 2017-18 school year. This funding will provide new “slots” of part-day services for 280 children, full-school day services for 480 children, and extended-day services for 40 children. In total, ECEAP will serve 12,491 children in 2017-18. 

As we outlined in a recent blog post which you can read here, ECEAP is Washington’s pre-kindergarten program that prepares 3- and 4-year-old children for success in school and in life. The Department of Early Learning oversees the program which is offered in more than 350 locations across the state. A 2014 evaluation by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) found that children who participated in ECEAP as preschoolers had significantly higher math and reading test scores in the third, fourth, and fifth grades than similar children who did not participate.
  • Benton County – 164 slots
  • Clark County – 73 slots
  • King County – 135 slots
  • Pierce County – 143 slots
  • Snohomish County – 67 slots
  • Spokane County – 24 slots
  • Thurston County – 135 slots
  • Yakima County – 147 slots

The Legislature also funded 1,000 more slots for children beginning in the 2018-19 school year and recommitted to serving all eligible children whose families are interested by 2022. 
DEL’s work isn’t done once we award slots. Over the coming months, DEL will provide technical assistance to those interested in applying for ECEAP expansion in the 2018-19 school year. We’ll also continue to partner with Child Care Aware of Washington to provide training and technical assistance to licensed child care providers (centers and homes) interested in providing ECEAP in their communities. Our goal: by the year 2022 there are enough high-quality ECEAP programs to serve all eligible children. 


Want to join us in achieving that goal? Visit our ECEAP page at https://www.del.wa.gov/eceap


Friday, July 14, 2017

DEL and Thrive Complete Key Transitions in Home Visiting Work

For the past several years, more than 2,000 of the state’s most vulnerable families have received high-quality home visiting services through a partnership between the Department of Early Learning and Thrive Washington. 

Last summer, the partnership took a critical look at how we were structuring the delivery of Home Visiting services in our state. We decided that to bring Home Visiting to scale in Washington, we needed to make some changes. Because of the hard work of Thrive to get the system where it is today, we knew that it was time to make Home Visiting part of the regular portfolio of services that DEL administers. With this redefined partnership, we will ultimately expand services, increase efficiency, and elevate the visibility and importance of the home visiting field.  

In the past year, teams at both agencies have adapted and updated many elements that support our delivery system, including our webpages, our contracting mechanisms, and our data collection and reporting processes. Throughout this process, we reached out continuously to the Home Visiting field, getting feedback at each step along the way so that the changes we made we done with the input of our providers and families.  We’re extremely grateful to each and every one of the home visitors and home visiting leaders who helped guide us with their insights and feedback and, of course, their can-do attitude in helping us make this change real.  

Here are just a few examples of the improvements we’ve made with this transition: 
  • GRANTS, CONTRACTS AND REPORTS: In the biggest change to occur, DEL now oversees all grants, contracts and reporting processes. As of July 1, all home visiting contracts are now on the same cycle and every organization receiving funds has a single contract. Not only is this way more efficient on the DEL side of things, it provides more clarity and predictably for providers.
  • PAY FOR PERFORMANCE: We’ve begun testing performance payments in our contracts, exploring how this type of funding incentive can drive success in the areas of program enrollment and family engagement.
  • DATA COLLECTION: We’ve instituted common data collection to provide aligned measures across all home visiting models, giving us a clearer picture of how we’re doing on early indicators of kindergarten readiness. 
  • CONTINUOUS QUALITY IMPROVEMENT: We’ve streamlined our reporting processes while amplifying our Continuous Quality Improvement requirements. This helps us place greater emphasis on factors that significantly impact child development, including maternal depression and intimate partner violence, family engagement, and parent/child interaction. All of these will help programs focus on key indicators of family well-being.
  • COACHING: With DEL now managing grants, contracts and reporting, Thrive will increase its coaching and training to help programs ensure high-quality services.
The official transition is complete, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. In the coming year, we’ll be planning for the expansion of the Home Visiting system and continuing to look at effective models for performance payments. We will revisit how all of the state agencies that support home visiting can best work together and what kind of governance structure will give us the greatest coordination and efficiencies. 

With the creation of the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families we’ll be looking at better ways to partner with Child Protective Services and juvenile rehabilitation services to emphasize prevention and early intervention. 

This transition has brought us to a new and exciting place where, through our continued partnership, we are ready to begin the next, scaled-up phase of Home Visiting delivery in Washington. In this work, we will move further towards strengthening families, preventing child abuse and neglect, and achieving our goal of getting 90% of children ready for kindergarten by 2020. 



Ross Hunter                                                    Alan Cohen
Director, Department of Early Learning           President & CEO, Thrive


                         

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Taking Steps to Understand the Child Care Market in Washington

Headlines have been running coast-to-coast about the rising cost of child care. Parents all across Washington are feeling the burden. If we are going to find solutions to this issue as a state, we need to have a clear picture of the problem.  A few big questions for DEL to explore: how much does it really cost to run a child care in this state, and what does this mean for the rates child cares are charging families?

DEL is gathering tuition rate and operating cost information from licensed providers in order to be a more effective advocate for improvements in the early childhood education market. The Cost of Quality project and Market Rate Survey are opportunities for providers to share their input about their experiences in the child care market. 

Invitation emails started going out last week to approximately 350 centers to take part in a survey that asks about the costs of operating a center and investments in quality. The survey will run through July 2017 with a report due out this fall. For in-home family child care providers, DEL plans on launching a survey next summer.

In addition, the Market Rate Survey is getting a makeover this year. Look for a trimmer simplified survey of child care rates coming this fall. We will include all licensed providers this year and will gather the same information from both centers and family homes. 


Want to learn more? Visit our research page to view past Market Rate Surveys, and keep an eye out there for future information about this work!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Legislative Session and Government Shutdown Update

Great news! The Legislature has approved the 2017–19 operating budget and will soon transmit it to Gov. Inslee for his signature. The governor will act on the budget by midnight, which will avert a shutdown of state government operations funded by the operating budget. Please continue to check the OFM website for more information as it becomes available. Watch this space next week for details on how the budget deal will impact the programs that DEL delivers. For now – enjoy the Independence Day weekend with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that programs and services for our state’s children and families are intact.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Wednesday this week the state Legislature began its 3rd special session of the year. At the time of writing this, they have not yet come to an agreement on the operating budget, something they are constitutionally mandated to accomplish every two years.* This means that they have until midnight on June 30th to reach said agreement, or the State of Washington shuts down. By law, agencies cannot spend any state or federal funds without a legislatively approved spending plan. What does that mean for the Department of Early Learning, and all of the thousands of children we serve?

To start, we have not had a government shutdown in this state in history, and we don’t expect that we will have one this year. However, as an agency we are legally required to do certain activities to get prepared for the possibility. Families receiving subsidy for childcare and the providers who serve them have been sent notifications of the termination of their services. Agency employees are receiving layoff notices. Contractors are being told that the contracts they’ve prepared and signed with us for the new fiscal year won’t go into effect.

Even though we don’t believe the state will shut down, this prep work is a big challenge for the children, parents, and providers that DEL serves and partners with. We have nothing but the utmost compassion for and empathy with them about the immense stress these legally required activities have caused.

The following is an example of the services that would be effected in the event of a shutdown:
  •  Licensing activities for 5,600 child care programs would cease (only emergency on-call services for DLR/CPS investigations would be running).
  • Child care subsidy would be shut off for about 31,000 low-income families with about 52,500 children.
  • Work done by contractors for services like Early Achievers, Home Visiting, ECEAP, and ECLIPSE (the exception is ESIT services, which has a federal mandate to be uninterrupted).
  • All agency operations, including access to phones and email. There would be no DEL staff to contact during a shutdown.

Some of you may recall from the last budget agreement cycle in 2015 that the budget was enacted at the last possible moment, and then state agencies have to go about the business of reopening for business. It can be a frustrating process, but we are working hard to make sure that our clients experience the most minimal effects possible.

How do you find out if the shutdown has occurred, or if it has, when it is over? Visit the Office Financial Management’s website, www.ofm.wa.gov. They will be the clearinghouse for updates in the event of a shutdown.

To everyone that works tirelessly day after day to care for, support, and love the children of Washington, thank you for your work and patience as we plan through these scenarios. We’re hopeful that we will see a final budget soon and can move forward with the business of preparing our state’s littlest learners for the world ahead.







Ross Hunter


Director, Washington State Department of Early Learning

*Unlike Congress, which can pass continuing resolutions and partial funding bills to punt the responsibility down the line. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

ECEAP – Washington’s Comprehensive Preschool Program

As another school year draws to a close, we wanted to take a moment to highlight one of the key programs that DEL administers for our state’s littlest learners. We’ve posted about ECEAP often on this blog and in social media, but those of you who are new to the early learning system in Washington may be scratching you heads at this funky acronym and wondering “what does ECEAP do for children?” 

The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is Washington’s pre-kindergarten program that prepares 3- and 4-year-old children for success in school and in life. Children ages 3 and 4 are eligible for ECEAP if their family income is at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level or if they are experiencing specific risk factors. For a family of 4, that’s $26.730 a year or less. 

Since 1985, ECEAP has focused on the well-being of the whole child by providing comprehensive nutrition, health, education and family support services to Washington’s most at-risk young children. ECEAP currently serves more than 11,500 children in 351 locations in Washington State. 

ECEAP and Academic Benefits 


  • A 2014 evaluation by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) found that children who participated in ECEAP had significantly higher math and reading test scores in the third, fourth, and fifth grades than similar children who did not participate. 
  • Children who participated in the 2015-16 school year showed significant progress in social-emotional, physical, language, and cognitive development and early literacy and math skills. 


ECEAP – Beyond the Classroom 

ECEAP text boxECEAP’s comprehensive approach goes far beyond the children’s classroom. Parents receive support through the program as well. ECEAP “truly helps future kindergarteners and parents” says Maria, an ECEAP parent. Parents have opportunities to develop leadership skills and work towards their personal goals with the help of program staff. ECEAP staff also assist families with the transition to Kindergarten. 

Nicole, whose son attends the Kennewick School District ECEAP program, describes his tremendous progress since attending ECEAP. “The school and teachers worked hard to accommodate our family’s specific needs,” she explains. Another parent adds that “ECEAP made it possible for our daughter to catch up to the level she should be at.” 

Enrolling in ECEAP

Enrollment for ECEAP services happens at the local level. Each ECEAP program is unique and tailored to the community needs. Interested families are encouraged to contact an ECEAP program to learn more and apply for admission. 

Learn More

Visit the ECEAP webpage to learn more about the program at https://www.del.wa.gov/eceap. For general questions contact ECEAP@del.wa.gov or call 360-407-3650.  



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Creating a Digital Child Care Attendance System

“Teacher: [taking attendance] Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?"
"Student: Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious.”
                   – Scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Taking attendance has always been problematic for teachers. Now, the federal government is requiring us to improve our attendance records for child care subsidies. Since they provide the bulk of the funds we use to pay for the subsidies we have to take this seriously.

We’re taking the opportunity to modernize this process in order to make providing child care easier for providers, easier on program administrators, less expensive to tax payers, more accurate and take less time for everyone involved.  

We know that child care providers don’t go into business dreaming about taking attendance and administrative red tape. Storing paper attendance records, submitting requested records via fax, reconciling attendance and subsidy billing; these are all headaches that take time to untangle. For providers, this is time that could be better spent engaging with children, taking advantage of education opportunities, or doing the thousand other things they need to run a successful business. 

There are a lot of important questions we’re considering as we go through this project: will the data collected from the system be secure (absolutely); will the attendance system we’re purchasing be available in languages other than English (we’re working on that); will providers have to pay for the system (the software will be free); and many more. The team working on it has put answers to many of these questions on a new webpage, found here

We’re not replacing the painful billing system yet, but collecting attendance electronically is necessary before we can do that. Replacing billing is high on our priority list for improving the system.

We don’t yet have a set date when all providers accepting subsidy have to begin using the new digital attendance system, but we’ll have more information about implementation dates by August of this year. Keep an eye on the project webpage (https://www.del.wa.gov/Attendance-Project) for timing and ways that you can be involved in the project. 







Ross Hunter
Director, Washington State Department of Early Learning

Thursday, June 1, 2017

REVISED: DEL is Seeking Volunteers to Participate as an Attendance Project Usability Tester

We do not need any more volunteers for usability testing.  Due to the tremendous response to our call for volunteers--all of the usability sessions have been filled. 

Thank you to all of the people that volunteered to test the usability of several of the attendance systems DEL is evaluating for purchase.  Your feedback will help DEL find the best attendance tracking system for our state. 

___________________________________________________

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is currently working through a new attendance system which will track attendance of children participating in Washington’s child care subsidy program. The process is currently done on paper forms, creating a complicated and confusing process for families, providers, and the State. With the federal government now requiring us to improve our child care subsidy attendance records, we are in the process of selecting an electronic attendance system. This new system will track, store, and report on child attendance to support provider billing. The digital system should be easier to use and more accurate. The goals of the Attendance Project are to:  

  • Replace the manual paper attendance system used by most providers with a modern, off-the-shelf, cloud-based software.
  • Reduce the amount of time that providers and State workers spend tabulating attendance hours.
  • Reduce billing inaccuracies and over-payments with internal controls over child care payments.
  • Implement the new system in a manner that supports providers’ different comfort levels with technology.

Prior to committing to an attendance system we need your help.  We are seeking volunteers, licensed child care providers and parents using licensed care, to test the usability of systems we are evaluating for purchase and provide feedback. Your feedback will directly contribute to the selection of a system that will improve child care subsidy attendance tracking. 

The usability study is being conducted between May 25 through June 8 in Olympia. Volunteers will commit to approximately 1-1 ½ hours in our Usability Lab interacting with one of the attendance systems while providing feedback about the system to a facilitator. These sessions will be video recorded. 


Volunteers are eligible to receive a $75.00 gift card and travel reimbursements based on current state reimbursement rates and in accordance with the State of Washington Office of Financial Management Travel Regulations (current rates for travel can be accessed at: http://www.ofm.wa.gov/resources/travel.asp). 
If you are interested in participating in this activity, please complete our 3 minute survey (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/R6GKH83) and a member of the Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech) User Experience Team will contact you within the next two business days to schedule a session.

Please contact communications@del.wa.gov with any questions.

Thank you for your interest in contributing to our state’s progress toward building an early learning system that meets the needs of all Washington children and families!


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

NIEER State of Preschool Yearbooks Shows Washington State Among Leading States in Resources, Quality

                                                           
Each year the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) produces a national report, The State of Preschool Yearbookon state-funded preschool programs with detailed information on enrollment, funding, teacher qualifications, and other policies related to quality. Decades of research shows that early childhood education can prepare children for greater success in elementary school and beyond, with benefits largest for the most disadvantaged-- but only if quality is high. 

Some highlights specific to Washington State include:
  • Washington boosted funding by 26 percent for its Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and improved its relatively low enrollment of both 3- and 4-year-olds, according to the 2016 State of Preschool Yearbook released today by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
  • Washington’s funding for ECEAP exceeded $97 million while enrollment totaled 11,691 children, about 6.5 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in the state. 

“Early childhood education is a great investment,” said NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D. “We see Washington making progress on enrollment and spending but more work is needed to expand access to the high-quality pre-K that helps children get the best possible start in life.”

In Washington: 
  • Total funding for ECEAP was $97 million, up 26 percent or almost $20.3 million, adjusted for inflation from 2014-2015. 
  • Enrollment increased 16 percent, or 1,600 additional 3- and 4-year-olds compared to 2014-2015. 
  • Washington served almost 9 percent of 4-year-olds, ranking 32nd out of 44 states, the same as last year. The state also served more than 4 percent of 3-year-olds, ranking 17th out of the 29 states that serve 3-year-olds. 
  • Funding per child was $8,305, up $693 from 2014-2015. Washington ranked 4th on state resources per child, up from 8th last year. 
  • ECEAP meets nine of NIEER’s current quality standards benchmarks; the program does not require lead teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. 
  • Washington’s Department of Early Learning identified a new strategic goal to ensure 90 percent of the state's children are kindergarten-ready by 2020.

Current benchmarks were designed to help states build programs, focusing on resources and policies related to the structural aspects of public pre-K—elements needed for a high-quality program but not fully defining one. This year, NIEER is introduced major revisions to the policy benchmarks raise the bar by focusing on policies that more directly support continuous improvement of classroom quality. State profiles in the 2016 Yearbook include both current and new benchmark scores.

Washington met seven of NIEER’s new quality standards benchmarks, including the new requirement for supports for curriculum implementation. They also meet the new requirement for early learning and development standards that are culturally sensitive, supports, and aligned with other state standards and child assessments. However, current policies fell short on requiring 15 hours of ongoing professional development per year for assistant teachers and professional development plans for all lead and assistant teachers. Washington is engaged in work to bolster state-pre-K quality as they work to serve all eligible children.


Read the full report on the State of Preschool 2016 or the Executive Summary.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

DEL is Accepting Applications for Vacancies on the Early Learning Advisory Council

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is filling three seats on the Washington Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) and is accepting applications from qualified and interested individuals. The open seats will represent the following: 
  • A Family Home Child Care provider
  • A Parent representative  
  • An Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) representative
These governor-appointed seats are two-year positions and will be effective upon appointment. 


ABOUT ELAC

ELAC was created by the Legislature in 2007.  The Council plays a pivotal role in the early learning system as an advisory body to DEL and serves as a connector among the state, local communities and constituencies across Washington. 

ELAC’s membership reflects Washington’s regional, racial, and cultural diversity and includes parents, child care providers, health/safety experts and legislators, as well as representatives of Tribal Nations, independent schools, the K-12 and higher education systems, and others interested in creating a statewide early learning system that helps all children realize their full potential. Read more about ELAC and its work.

ELAC representatives from around the state meet regularly to advise and work with DEL to assist in policy development and implementation that assist the department in promoting alignment of private and public sector actions, objectives, and resources, so that partners can collectively ensure that all children succeed in school and life. 

ELAC MEMBERSHIP REQUIREMENTS

Members serve two-year terms that expire on June 30th of the second year. ELAC meets at least six times per year; generally from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ELAC members are expected to attend the majority of meetings and be prepared to actively participate. Participants who volunteer in subcommittees or work groups should expect to meet outside of the regular meeting dates. 

The open membership seats are unpaid positions, although non-governmental members may be eligible for compensation and reimbursement for travel expenses incurred while carrying out ELAC duties.


APPLICATION

Interested individuals who can commit to the membership requirements can apply for an open ELAC seat online on the Governor’s website by June 18, 2017. Along with your resume, please attach a brief statement that addresses the following: 
  • Which vacant seat are you applying for and how do you meet the criteria? 
  • Why would you like to serve as a representative on ELAC? 
  • How did you hear about ELAC and/or who referred you? 
  • What is your perspective on or approach to providing equitable early learning opportunities? 
  • What impact do you hope to see ELAC have on early learning in Washington, and how would you like to contribute to that effort?
Please contact slc@del.wa.gov with any questions.

Thank you for your interest in contributing to our state’s progress toward building an early learning system that meets the needs of all Washington children and families!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Negotiated Rule Making Starts Today

We are starting a negotiated rule making and public comment process today for DEL’s updated, aligned, and weighted set of rules for Family Home and Center child care facilities. Check out the website for lots and lots of detail on the process.

This process is the required next step to completing our Standards Alignment process. The Early Start Act of 2016 mandated that DEL “align” its licensing rules for family homes and child care centers. This is essentially a re-write of the entire licensing WAC, and we’ve taken the opportunity as part of this do something long requested by our providers – “weighting” the rules so everyone shares the same sense of the importance of one rule over another in ensuring safety. The end result should be a progression of standards and regulations between licensed child care, Early Achievers, and ECEAP. The early learning system will have a unified set of regulations that are easy to understand by providers in the field.


Many agencies would choose at this point to negotiate separately the set of aligned rules with each group of “affected parties,” and then hold a protracted public comment process. Instead, DEL has chosen to gather public comments and negotiate the rules with people and organizations affected by them, all at the same time. 


I actually think this is a good idea – to get the interested parties all at one table together, trying to reach some sort of consensus. Adding parents and the public to the process will, I hope, vastly improve the quality of the outcome. The early learning field has made such great strides in the past few years in part because so many groups have often come together with one goal in mind: the health and well being of our state’s littlest learners. This process shouldn’t be any different.

People are obviously going to come at this from different perspectives and experiences. That’s a good thing. There may at times even be a little tension. That’s ok too. Push and pull is a healthy part of democracy. It ensures all groups and individuals are respected, considered, and protected. I’m confident about the great intentions of everyone who’s participating, whether it be in the formal negotiations, through alignment cafes, or by submitting comments as individuals. I’m also impressed by the work the DEL team has done thus far to get us all to this point. I look forward to the results.







Ross Hunter
Director, Washington State Department of Early Learning 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Celebrating Child Care Providers in Washington!

Today is Provider Appreciation Day, a time for us to all celebrate the efforts of providers who care for and educate our state’s children. Here’s a message to providers from DEL Director Ross Hunter:

A Washington child care provider
comforting a sick child.
“Earlier this week I was asked to record a video for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reminiscing about a teacher who had been powerful in my life, as part of National Teacher Appreciation Week. It was really easy, fun, and made me smile to think about the impact my high school calculus teacher had on my understanding about how the world of mathematics actually works. Despite my fondness for Mr. Machemer, in the real world, pre-school and childcare teachers are where the impact on children’s developing brains is most powerful.

The opportunity you have as teachers of our littlest, most sponge-like kids is incredible, and you really can change the world for the better.

Thank you for your commitment, your love for the children in your care, and for the positive impact you have on our littlest learners.”

Click here to learn more about Provider Appreciation Day. Share your stories of great child care providers with us on Facebook or on Twitter @DEL_wa! #ProviderAppreciationDay

Friday, April 21, 2017

Reminder Applications due Friday, June 9 for Vacant Seats on PAG

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is recruiting for five vacant seats on the Parent Advisory Group (PAG) and is accepting applications from qualified and interested individuals. 
At the Department of Early Learning (DEL), we believe parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. The DEL Parent Advisory Group (PAG) was established in 2007 as a sounding board to bring parent voices into the work of DEL.  It is a place to share ideas, provide advice and guidance, “parent-test” policies and programs, and to shape the future of DEL.  Parental involvement is the key to having policies and programs that support families’ strengths and needs.
We are currently recruiting for 5 members from the following regions:
  • Northwest 
  • Olympic-Kitsap 
  • Southeast 
  • Southwest 
  • Pierce County

Eligibility

Parent Advisory Group membership criteria:
  • A Parent or Guardian of a child or children between the ages of 0-9;
  • Available to attend and participate in three in-person (full day) meetings. Currently meetings are scheduled for:                  
July 14, 2017
October 4, 2017
April 2018

  • Able to participate in ten conference calls per year with the group. Currently calls are held the second Tuesday of every month from 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. 
  • Willing to connect and coordinate with other families in your local community and community groups that you are involved with. 

Supports for PAG Members

Parent Advisory Group members are eligible for mileage reimbursements to help support participation.  Mileage will be reimbursed at current state travel reimbursement rates and in accordance with the State of Washington Office of Financial Management Travel Regulations. Current rates for travel can be accessed at: http://www.ofm.wa.gov/policy/10.90.htm#10.90.10. At this time, on-site child care is not available during meetings. We ask that participants recruit and/or secure child care for each in-person meeting.  Please contact us at pag@del.wa.gov with any concerns or questions about securing child care.

Application

Interested individuals who can commit to the membership requirements can fill out the application available on the Parent Advisory Group website by June 9, 2017.  Translation and interpretation is available upon request. 
If you are interested, please submit your application by June 9, 2017 via one of the following methods: 
Email:     page@del.wa.gov 
Mail:       DEL Parent Advisory GroupPO Box 40970 | Olympia, WA  98504-0970
Drop-off: DEL | Attn:Parent Advisory Group | 1110 Jefferson St. SE | Olympia, WA 98501
Please contact pag@del.wa.gov with any questions.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Why Subsidy Rate Increases Matter to Everyone--Even if you aren’t a family on subsidy

Talking about base rate increases for child care providers who accept children on subsidy can seem a little wonky. You may think it’s important only to those families and providers it touches directly. But this is one of the key issues facing our child care system in Washington. The Department of Early Learning believes that we need rate increases for Family Homes and Child Care Centers across the state if we want the system to survive. 
A single parent with two children has to be making $40,320 a year or less in order to qualify for our subsidy program. A family of four is limited to $48,600 a year. If you’re making even a dollar more than that, you’re paying the full price of child care costs.

Everyone knows that the cost of child care has risen steadily in recent years. We know too that the average family’s wages have not kept pace with this rising cost. How does the State help? We provide subsidies to low-income families so that they can access high-quality child care in the communities where they live. These subsidies pay the owners and employees of Family Home and Child Care Centers to deliver early learning services.  

 So are the providers raking in money hand-over-fist when they accept subsidy payments? The simple answer is no. Our federal funding partners from the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) want our subsidy rates to be at in the 75th percentile of market-rate child care [1], and our state is nowhere close to that. That’s why our Governor put into his budget proposal this year a 2% base rate increase for Family Homes, and a tiered reimbursement increase for Child Care Centers. That was to get us closer to that 75th percentile before accounting for the January minimum wage increase.  

We know that minimum wage increases enacted in I-1433 will benefit child care workers. Hopefully it will have a positive influence on childcare quality given the association between employee compensation and childcare quality. However (and that’s a big however) there are some very real problems this wage increase creates for the child care system.  

In order to understand the effects of I-433 on the child care system, we conducted a Minimum Wage Impact Survey Analysis. This report suggests that costs for providers are going up 1% for Family Homes and 3.5% for Child Care Centers, in addition to cost increases as a result of inflation. 
The biggest element of cost for child care providers is labor (about 60%, significantly higher than most other business types). If we drive down their revenue relative to their costs because of wage increases they have only a few options: 
  • Pass the increased costs onto private-pay families. This hurts the middle class and those struggling to make it into the middle class (remember the part above about sky-rocketing child care costs?) 
  • Stop serving children on subsidy. This will bankrupt small businesses who rely on subsidy families for their business model and will force more families into dangerous, unlicensed care scenarios. 
  • Hire less educated, lower quality staff. This will reduce educational outcomes. 
These are not options that child care providers like, and they are not ones we want to see either. We want to get more children into high-quality early learning programs so that we can get them ready for kindergarten, regardless of race or family income. We want to ensure that every parent or guardian who waives goodbye to their child at the beginning of the day can feel confident about his or her safety.
To keep the system whole, to not unduly burden middle class families, and to continue our quest for quality, we need to be thinking about subsidy base rates. 


[1] Meaning subsidy families have access to at least three-quarters of all available child care.