General Assembly 2022: Early Education Wrap-Up
Virginia lawmakers continued to create a path for growth and expansion in early education with the outcomes of the budget negotiations in the 2022 General Assembly Session. Building off years of historic state and national investments, the legislature approved significant resources for early childhood for FY23-24. The legislature approved several new initiatives and the bulk of the early childhood expansion proposals in Governor Northam’s outgoing budget.
After years of significant strain on the child care industry and after a House of Delegates proposed budget made significant cuts to Northam’s proposals, early childhood advocates have something positive to celebrate in this state budget. The final compromise left most of his proposal in place. In recent comments, Governor Youngkin recognized a significant bi-partisan shift to support early education that he hoped the legislature would restore funding to early education.
Below are the initiatives that will strengthen early education and the child care sector in the budget. In total, the budget includes an additional $76 million in state funds and an additional $7.5 million in ARPA funding for early education and child care.
Six bipartisan legislators received Child Care Champions Awards from the Virginia Promise Partnership at an awards reception on June 1, 2022.
Creating a Stronger, More Equitably Resourced Early Education System
A combination of policy changes in legislation and language in the budget will strengthen the alignment and oversight of early education programs.
- The Regional Early Education System and Overpayment Fund HB 389, sponsored by Del. Bulova, was signed into law to create the structure for Ready Regions throughout Virginia and capture any overpayment to localities of subsidy funds so it does not revert to other areas.
- Increasing the VPI per-pupil allocation to $8,359 will reflect the true cost of quality early education programs. In addition, language asks the Department of Education to conduct an annual benchmarking of VPI funding, as is done with other K-12 funding streams.
- Language for more flexibility in the use of VPI funds will allow school divisions to serve more students with disabilities and expand to serve 3-year-olds in VPI funded programs.
- An additional $6.7 million will expand public/private options for state-aligned preschools through the VECF mixed-delivery program. These funds will support the early childhood education of an estimated additional 500-600 students, including 200 infants and toddlers.
- The legislature has directed $3.5 million in ARPA funds to the United Way of Southwest Virginia for a new initiative expanding child care capacity, “Ready Southwest”.
Compensation and Retention for Early Childhood Educators
- The approved budget will expand the early educator incentive grant program by an additional $5 million per year to recruit and retain early childhood professionals.
- While reforms to the hiring process and background checks for provisional employment did not move forward, the Commissioner of Social Services has begun a process review and promise to address the timeliness of background checks.
Accessibility and Affordable Care for All Children
- Building off the legislation that passed last year, the new budget continues to expand child care assistance eligibility and reduces parent co-pays. Families with children under five, up to 85% of the state median income, and families looking for a job are eligible now for this assistance. The budget also eliminates the 72 month time limit to receive assistance, removing an arbitrary time limit for families who may have multiple children who could otherwise qualify for assistance.
- The legislature also provided $4 million in ARPA federal funds to support 21st Century Community Learning Centers. These federal funds will strengthen school-based, out of school-time, programs that are affordable.
- Governor Youngkin signed SB69 sponsored by Sen. Favola allowing home-based child care programs to be approved on the site of rental properties.
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- The legislature provided a $2.9 million increase each year to the base allocation for Part C Services early intervention services funded through DBHDS. This will contribute to services for infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities and delays.