Voices’ Blog

Early Childhood: 2019 Session Wrap-Up

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

The 2019 General Assembly Session ended without as many big ideas for early education as it started with. Nonetheless, we still making progress to ensure that more low-income children have access to high-quality early childhood education by ensuring funding was included to continue VPI+ classrooms. (Or, as pictured above determined baby Alli is still determined to make big changes.)

More than 1,500 at-risk four-year-olds will have the opportunity to attend high-quality preschool. The final budget includes $6.1 million to continue VPI+ classrooms in 13 communities slated to lose a federal grant. While the Governor proposed covering the local match requirement for these communities, the legislature requires school divisions to put in local matching funds of up to 40% of the per pupil amount.

Limited progress on quality improvements in VPI. The legislature did not accept the Governor’s proposal for additional classroom observations, professional development, and curriculum enhancements in Virginia Preschool Initiative classrooms. While not funded in the state budget, some of this work will continue with the new federal grant Virginia received in December 2018 to improve our early childhood systems.

Tax credit funded scholarships for pre-kindergarten passed. After several years of attempts to expand the eligibility for the Education Improvement Tax Credit Scholarship to pre-kindergarten the measure (SB1015- Stanley) finally passed the legislature. These scholarships would be available to middle-income families (300% of poverty, or 400% if the child has an IEP) to attend preschool programs with demonstrated quality (VCPE accredited, VA Quality level 3, or licensed and meeting other quality standards). The value of the scholarship would be the state share of the VPI per pupil amount, ranging from $3,163 in Fairfax to $5,219 in Lee. Similar measures have been vetoed in the past.

No action to unify early childhood systems. Despite the support for the concepts of the Early Childhood Success Act to bring early childhood programs under the Department of Education, the bill failed in the House of Delegates. This means there will not be a signal from the legislature to move in this direction, nor will there be a legislature-sanctioned workgroup formed to explore potential models of oversight or the creation of an Innovation Fund. The concepts of unifying the system are worth further exploration. Voices is particularly interested in maximizing the full use of the $185 M available for child care subsidies and quality improvement activities.

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