Bill Explainer: Early Childhood Reform SB578/HB1012
The Governor’s early childhood education reform bill (SB578/HB1012) is moving along.
As of Jan. 31st the House version (Del. Bulova’s HB1012) is in the Appropriations committee and the Senate version (Sen. Howell’s SB578) was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 31-5.
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The version moving forward is a substitute from the original bill. It is introduced as a substitute when there are more changes than can be tracked as line item amendments. Thanks to the Secretary of Education’s office for providing useful info to better understand the substitute:
Changes to Definitions
- Eliminated use of the term “child welfare agency” which does not reflect educational value of programs
- Added definition of “early childhood care and education entity” as any child day programs serving children under the age of 5
Unified Public-Private Care and Education System
- The Board will establish a unified public-private early care and education system, administered by Board, Superintendent, and DOE. The system will include Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI)-funded and other school-based early childhood programs, licensed programs, and unlicensed programs. For the first time, the code will explicitly lay out a vision for aligning publicly funded programs providing early childhood care and education, with accountability for execution of that vision with one state agency.
- The Board will establish an Early Childhood Care and Education Advisory Council to advise the Board that includes a wide variety of stakeholders. This list has been updated since the bill was introduced to include an additional Head Start representative, along with a before and after care program and a resource and referral agency.
Uniform Quality Rating System
- The Board of Education will establish a uniform quality rating and improvement system to help improve kindergarten readiness outcomes.
- System will establish consistent quality standards, use measurements that promote positive child outcomes and incorporate incentives to encourage participation.
- All publicly-funded providers that serve 2 or more children must participate, any other provider may opt to participate. This includes Head Start, VPI in public and private settings, and any provider who accepts child care subsidy (including after school providers).
- The details of this system will be further defined in regulations adopted by the Board of Education.
Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI):
- Allows for higher ratios (2:20 students) for VPI classrooms meeting quality benchmarks (still within the limits of the national best practice). The previous ratio and ratio for those not meeting quality benchmarks is 1:10 or 2:18.
- Includes three-year-olds in description of program
Licensure and oversight of care and education entities:
- Moves all description of licensure from the DSS code section to this new early childhood chapter including application process and fees, registration, inspections, records/reports, enforcement of sanctions, programs exempt from licensure, background checks, and health/safety requirements. Replaces term “Commissioner” with term “Superintendent”.
- No policy changes are made to existing licensing ratios, licensing rules and exemptions for providers, or accreditation of private schools through the Virginia Council on Private Education.
- The provisions for religious centers to remain exempt from licensure is exactly as it was in the DSS code section, with one word change (early childhood care and education entity) on line 1939. The intent of this bill is NOT to change any existing policies for religious exempt centers, except if they accept public subsidy dollars.
- Enables DOE or their designee to conduct, request, and receive information necessary for criminal background checks for licensed and subsidy participating programs. This function will be contracted back to VDSS in the MOU established between the agencies. Enables necessary allowances for accessing information in investigations, and reporting to national sex offender registry. Does not change anything about who is required to have a background check.
- The bill uses the same exact same process for appeal when a center has had its license revoked or suspended.
Child Care Subsidy Program
- While the funds for and regulations governing the subsidy program will move to DOE, the responsibility of administering the practical functions day to day will remain with local departments of social services.
- The rest of this section strikes child day programs from the Commissioner’s responsibility, and they had been added to the Superintendent’s responsibilities. The Commissioner will still regulate and investigate other types of programs such as child-placing agencies, independent foster homes, etc.
- Eliminates the requirement that subsidy program participants provide information on the other parent for child support enforcement purposes, in order to participate.
- One policy change, currently when an individual applies for public assistance, they must provide the name of the noncustodial parent to be referred to the child enforcement division. This has been a disincentive for some individuals to seek child care assistance, so the language on line 4060 carves child care subsidy out of this requirement.
- Superintendent must establish a plan for implementing the unified system and report to the GA in December 2020 and December 2021 on the transition. Note: This is in addition to reporting language included in the introduced budget with the transfer of $181M in Child Care Development Block Grant from DSS to DOE. The Superintendent must report on that transfer in August 2020.
- DSS and DOE enter into a cooperative agreement to ensure seamless transition by July 1, 2021. This is where a lot of the particulars will be laid out, including functions that DOE will contract back to DSS (like background checks, etc). Note: These conversations are already underway between VDOE and VDSS.
- Regulations from Board of Social Services will be transferred to Board of Education exactly as is by July 1, 2021. All DSS guidance is in effect until amended.
- By July 1, 2021, DOE will be lead agency for CCDF and Head Start Collaboration Office.
- Unified rating and improvement system will be established in regulation by the Board of Education by July 2021, with pilot year to be complete by July 2022. By fall 2023 ratings will be public.
Write to the members of House Appropriations and Senate Finance with your support for these bills now!
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