On Tuesday we shared news with you about an upcoming committee vote on the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act”, which was being considered in the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee. We asked you to join us, and thousands of others on Twitter and Facebook, in asking our Senators to heed the research and invest in young kids.
Yesterday, the committee approved the Strong Start legislation with a vote of 12-10. There were two significant changes made to the legislation prior to voting.
- First, the bill originally required teachers – in programs that receive funding – to hold a bachelor’s degree, with credentials that demonstrate competence in early education. The change, adopted yesterday, would provide teachers a three-year “grace period” to meet this requirement. This is considered a significant improvement over the original language, which provided no time period for compliance. However, advocates remain concerned that three years will not be enough time for teachers to meet this new mandate.
- And second, new language allows both states and localities to be recipients of the bill’s preschool development grants. This language could be problematic as many states, including our own, are trying to build strong systems that reach children no matter where they reside. Money being provided directly to towns with the capacity to write strong applications could cause further fragmentation and inequity.
The Center for Law and Social Policy (commonly known as CLASP) has provided a more in-depth look into yesterday’s developments here.
The bill is now likely ready for a vote on the floor of the Senate. We will continue to track this legislation and provide updates as developments arise.
Connecticut’s legislative season has drawn to a successful close, and so now we turn our attention to developments on the federal level. Today, we are watching the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee’s 2PM meeting to debate and amend the“Strong Start for America’s Children Act”. This legislation represents the possibility of a major new federal investment in early care and education; an opportunity Connecticut is well-positioned to take advantage of following the passage of the Office of Early Childhood legislation.
Some of the major components of the “Strong Start” proposal include:
- Funding for Increased Access to Preschool for Four-Year Olds in Low-Income Families
The legislation includes a new funding formula that would provide states with a share of $1.3 billion for Fiscal Year 2014 (increasing to almost $9 billion by 2018) for high-quality pre-kindergarten. States are asked to specifically target the money to assist four-year-olds in families with income below 200% of the federal poverty level. States would be asked to provide a modest match in the early years (10% in year one and two, then gradually increasing to 50% in year six), although at least part of that match can be accounted for from dollars already being expended for early education programs. The legislation empowers state recipients to use the funding for sub-grants to local entities (both school districts and community providers) who are offering high-quality, full-day pre-k experiences. High quality is defined in the bill as a classroom with a teacher with bachelor’s degree, that uses developmentally appropriate curriculum, and that meets all health and safety standards. Small portions of the funding would also be available for workforce development (including teacher scholarships) and for creating a more robust system of care for infants and toddlers.
- Funding to Improve Both the Quality and Access to Infant and Toddler Care
The legislation contains $4 billion for the development of Early Head Start-child care partnerships. The goal of these arrangements is to improve infant and toddler care by linking the expertise found in Early Head Start programs with community providers already serving young children. The legislation also states a goal of having Early Head Start serve one in five children living at or below the poverty level; the program currently serves only one in 25.
- Funding to Infuse Greater Quality into CCDBG (Care4Kids)
The legislation contains two very important updates to this 17-year-old grant program. The first is allocating $100 million to support child care training, licensure, and professional development for early care and education programs who receive CCDBG/Care4Kids funding. The language would also require that states switch to a one-year redetermination period for families found eligible for CCDBG/Care4Kids. Currently the redetermination period is set at 8 months in Connecticut for Care4Kids, though language that passed this legislative session would permit the return to a 6 six-month redetermination period. Frequent redetermination creates great uncertainty for both the families and the providers who rely on these childcare subsidies.
- Language in Support of Continued Federal Funding for Voluntary, Evidence-Based Home Visitation Programs (though no actual funding is contained within the bill).
The Senate HELP Committee has organized a “twitter storm” for 2pm while its meeting is being held. This list of sample tweets has been provided to us by our partners at the National Women’s Law Center. We hope those of you with accounts on Facebook and Twitter will join us in showing your support! You can also watch live here –help.senate.gov.