Voices’ Blog

Empowering Virginia’s Future: Unveiling the Blueprint for Affordable and Accessible Early Childhood Education

Posted:  -  By: Allison Gilbreath

mother hugging child

In Virginia, child care is not just a service but a vital component of our social structure that enables parents to actively participate in the workforce. Shockingly, 74% of the state’s child care centers currently grapple with staffing shortages, creating a significant hurdle for families seeking reliable care options. The repercussions of this issue are substantial, with 68% of parents finding themselves unable to work due to the unavailability of affordable child care. 

Investments in early care and education yield significant returns for children, families, workers, and the economy at large. However, despite the collective efforts of parents, caregivers, professionals, and schools to contribute to children’s school readiness, existing systems are fragmented, failing to provide sufficient opportunities for all children to thrive. Despite years of policy conversations about the importance of early care and education, 42% of Virginia’s kindergarteners started the 2021 school year lacking foundational skills. 

The backbone of early childhood education faces its own set of challenges. This undervalued and underpaid field, disproportionately composed of women of color, struggles to provide educators with living wages. As a result, the field grapples with retention issues, hindering its ability to offer consistent, high-quality care and education to young learners. 

The recently unveiled Early Childhood Education proposal, outlined in the Governor’s Proposed Biennial Budget, signifies a landmark investment in the future of Virginia’s children. In this blog post, we’ll dissect the spending actions and budget language behind the key components of the proposal to provide a comprehensive understanding of the Governor’s vision for early childhood education. 

Spending Actions: 

  • Child Care Subsidy (Item #117 N): 
    • Proposed Funding: $212,255,104 (FY 25), $237,815,584 (FY 26) 
    • The Child Care Subsidy Program aims to support families in need by providing subsidies for child care services. Notably, unexpended funds are reappropriated for the same purpose in the following fiscal year. 
  • Digital Wallet (Item #117 O): 
    • Proposed Funding: $1,000,000 (FY 25) 
    • The Digital Wallet initiative allocates funds to establish and administer early learning and child care accounts on a digital platform, targeting families with children aged birth-to-five. 
  • Mixed Delivery Program (Item #124 S): 
    • Proposed Funding: $9,736,015 (FY 24), $36,500,000 (FY 25, FY 26) 
    • This program focuses on utilizing federal funds to support mixed delivery services, ensuring the efficient use of allocated slots and reporting mechanisms for unmet parental demand. 
  • Virginia Preschool Initiative (Item #125 C.14): 
    • Proposed Funding: Per Pupil Amount, $116,283,670 (FY 24), $116,592,886 (FY 25), $115,356,585 (FY 26) 
    • The Virginia Preschool Initiative sees funding for per-pupil amounts and expands early childhood education, including provisions for 3-year-old expansion, community add-ons, slot redistribution, ratio flexibility, and provisional licensure incentives. 
  • ECCE Capital Fund (Item #103 U): 
    • Proposed Funding: $25,000,000 (FY 25) 
    • This fund, administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, aims to increase the supply of quality early learning spaces through competitive grants, with a focus on sustainability and engagement with local employers. 

Budget Language Highlights: 

  • Child Care Subsidy Program (Item #117): 
    • Establishes annual targets for the number of children served, with mechanisms for maintaining waitlists. Unexpended funds are reappropriated for the same purpose. 
  • Digital Wallet (Item #117 O): 
    • Limits state contributions to the highest need households, with guidelines for use and oversight. Unexpended amounts are reappropriated annually. 
  • Mixed Delivery Program (Item #124 S): 
    • Requires reporting on the efficacy of the Mixed-Delivery Initiative, proposing a conclusion and transition mechanism by July 1, 2025. 
  • Virginia Preschool Initiative (Item #125 C.14): 
    • Sets non-participation rates and reallocates resulting savings to the Child Care Subsidy Program.  
  • Capital Incentive Fund (Item #103 U): 
    • Establishes a competitive grant fund for early learning spaces, with specific criteria for prioritizing higher education institutions. 

Next Steps and Legislative Proposal: 

The proposed budget outlines a clear plan for the next steps in early childhood education funding. As shown in the table, additional funding is needed to sustain parental demand. We also support budget amendment language removing the proposed work requirements for childcare subsidy.  

As members of the Virginia Promise Partnership, we are seeking an additional $26 million in FY 25 and $51 million in FY 26.  We are supporting Senator Locke and Delegate Bulova’s budget amendments for FY25: $20.2 million FY26: $39.7 million.

Additionally, legislation filed by Senator Locke (SB 54) and Delegate Bulova (HB 475) would establish three key components needed to address the increasing demand for affordable, quality, early childhood services for Virginia’s working families.  

  • Formula for funding early childhood slots based on parent demand and choice
  • Non-reverting fund to enable rollover and reuse of unspent funds intended for ECCE services to serve more children based on family demand in future years 
  • Formal recognition for Recognize, Virginia’s child care teacher incentive program




Tell legislators to support investments in early childhood education by completing this action alert! 

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