Voices’ Blog

Early Childhood Education: 2020 GA Talking Points

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

The 2020 General Assembly could transform early childhood education in Virginia for many years to come. It is well past time to strengthen our health, education and family support systems to better prepare young children for success in school. Following the July 2019 Executive Directive from Governor Northam, state agencies and stakeholders have been busy crafting plans to strengthen quality and access of early care and education in Virginia. In addition, the Secretary of Health and Human Resources has hosted listening sessions seeking input on plans to reduce racial disparities in maternal health by 2025.

Bolstered by this excellent input and feedback prior the start of the January 2020 General Assembly we are ready to advocate. Find more tools for being an advocate here and use the talking points below to educate elected officials on the policy issues to champion during the 2020 General Assembly Session.

2020 General Assembly Early Childhood Talking Points

Healthy Births and Healthy Moms

Improve infant and maternal health through policies to promote healthy births and reduce racial disparities in maternal and infant health. The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Research shows that Black mothers are two to three times more likely to die during pregnancy or in their first year of motherhood because they lack access to stable health care and often face institutional biases which create barriers to receiving appropriate care. Policies targeted to low-income mothers and women of color will help to reduce these disparities.

  • Ensure continuous health insurance coverage for mothers postpartum by extending eligibility for FAMIS MOMS from 60 days to 12 months. During the first year postpartum, mothers are at increased risk of death and adverse health outcomes. Recent findings in Virginia indicate that a significant percentage of maternal deaths occur between 43 days and one year postpartum. Access to coverage for an additional 10 months postpartum would enable women to seek care for serious health conditions that may otherwise go untreated due to a break or loss of health insurance coverage.  
  • Improve access to community doula and midwifery services for pregnant women. High maternal mortality rates disproportionately impact women of color, women living in rural areas and those with low income. Increasing access to community-based doula and midwifery services allow more women to receive a broad array of services that are individualized and culturally-sensitive.
  • Eliminate 40-Quarter Work requirement for Legal Permanent Residents. Virginia is one of only six states that requires Legal Permanent Residents to establish a 40-quarter (ten-year) work history before qualifying for Medicaid. The current requirement prevents otherwise eligible individuals from receiving needed care and increases unnecessary and expensive emergency care covered by Medicaid.
  • Expand access to home visiting services for pregnant women and families with young children.  Less than 10% of targeted families currently receive prenatal and early childhood home visiting services to improve health connections and help parents in their role as their child’s first teacher. Creating a Medicaid reimbursable service for home visiting will expand access to home visiting and bring down additional federal funds.

Early Learning Opportunities for Every Child

The achievement gap starts as an opportunity gap between low-income students and higher income peers who are more likely to attend high-quality early care. To create an equitable playing field, the state must help create more affordable and accessible early learning settings for economically disadvantaged young children. We can increase enrollment by adding funding and flexibility to the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI). Aligning child care and preschool funding between education and social services agencies will enable the state to better target quality improvement efforts and serve more children.

As Virginia creates new early learning systems, policymakers should prioritize helping parents navigate access to care, building supply in child care deserts, and helping to smooth the processes for enrollment and transitions.  

Voices supports policy proposals from the Northam Administration to:

  • Increase access to preschool for economically disadvantaged 3 & 4 year-olds by increasing VPI funding and making its uses more flexible.
  • Build one system to help parents learn more about how to choose and find quality early care. The quality improvement can benefit all children, especially economically disadvantaged kids when targeted to them.
  • Consolidate state oversight of early learning in to one state agency. Better coordination of federal resources targeted to economically disadvantaged families, including leveraging Head Start as an important part of early learning landscape.

In addition to these proposals we support…

Address preschool suspension and expulsion by creating an ECMH consultation model. Although suspension and expulsion in early childhood settings should be avoided at all costs, there are no formal channels to prevent it in private settings and no targeted interventions for the preschool years. Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (ECMHC) has demonstrated impacts for improving children’s social skills, reducing teacher stress and turnover, improving child-adult relationships and preventing preschool suspensions. Adopting a statewide ECMHC model for all children 0-5 will give early care providers, parents and children resources to address challenging behaviors. A recent study by the National Center for Children and Poverty found that 63% of Virginia preschool teachers identified access to early childhood mental health consultation as a top priority. To implement ECMH consultation statewide, we must identify an agency to provide oversight and what resources are needed to fund it.

Improve access to early intervention services to meet increased need. The early intervention caseload of infants and toddlers is growing by approximately 6% per year. In the most recent year targeted intervention therapies reached 20,000 infants and toddlers, an increase of 24% in a four-year period. The increase in children  can be attributed to increasing numbers of substance-affected infants and toddlers and earlier identification of autism spectrum disorders. Additional funding is needed to maximize federal resources and to fully fund services to meet the need.

Read More Blog Posts