We are closer to seeing the largest state investment in early childhood education in Virginia! The budgets approved by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee on Sunday, Feb. 16th keep most of the Governor’s proposals for early childhood in place.
The next step is for the House and Senate to appoint conferees to negotiate differences in the budget. Look for an action alert in the coming days targeted to these negotiators.
The only disappointment is a reduction in the proposed $10 million per year for mixed-delivery grants administered by VECF. The House proposed reducing funding for these grants by $7 million per year and the Senate proposed reducing funding by $2 million per year. Currently VECF administers $1.25 million in state-funded mixed-delivery grants. The House budget would provide 500 fewer mixed-delivery slots than the Senate budget.
As we have noted, the outcomes for children in mixed-delivery preschool settings are on par with the outcomes of children in public preschool. And, we have learned from other states, models that move all 3 & 4 year-olds to public schools make it too costly to offer affordable child care for infants and toddlers. We also believe that parents should choose the best settings to meet their preferences and needs, and that might be a full-day, year-round child care program.
Mixed-delivery settings are critical to any expansion of public preschool. Providers, educators, and parents must speak up for need for additional access to mixed-delivery preschool settings to be included in the final budget. The mixed-delivery grant program administered through VECF provides more flexibility in how state dollars can be used to support classrooms including the hours/timeframe of programs, the credentials of the classroom teachers, and the required local match. There is not a one-size fits all approach for each community to expand access to preschool, and these mixed-delivery grants help communities adjust to the challenges preventing them from serving more families.
While the total amount of available funding will depend on the final agreed upon budget due to be approved by March 7th, communities interested in expanding mixed-delivery slots can learn more about how to apply here. Letters of intent to apply are due March 20th.
Even with this small setback, we will celebrate expanded access and stronger preschool programs. If you did not get to take part in the celebration of early learning, the “Playdate at the Capitol” on Feb. 17th look at our photo album to check out all the fun!
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