Speak up for access to quality child care during April!
It’s time to add your voice to the conversation about plans for how Virginia spends our funding for child care assistance and quality improvement efforts. During April 2018, we have a tremendous opportunity to weigh in on how over $140 million of federal and state funds are used to build Virginia’s early learning system. Consider the following:
- The FY2018 omnibus spending bill approved by Congress included an unprecedented increase in early childhood funding, including an additional $2.9 billion for state child care systems, approximately $45 million of which will come to Virginia.
- This significant increase over the current $100 million budget comes at a time when the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) has asked for feedback on how these funds should be used over the next three years. A public comment period on the child care state plan is open during the month of April.
- We ask advocates to weigh in to help our state policymakers understand how kids, parents, and providers can benefit most from new investments. According to VDSS data on our KIDS COUNT data center, there has been a 30 percent decline in child care assistance enrollment from FY15 to FY17, with 8,700 fewer children enrolled in child care subsidy at the end of FY17 than the end of FY15. To fully maximize these available resources to build Virginia’s early learning system, we must speak up to ensure families can participate and afford high-quality child care options.
We are encouraging all providers who participate in the child care assistance program, local administrators, parents, early childhood educators, professional development stakeholders, and advocates to weigh in. An online portal for comments is open through April 27 and public hearings will be held throughout the state.
Voices will host a conference call for advocates wishing to review the plan and discuss our comments on Monday, April 16, 10:15- 11:15 a.m.
Conference line: (530) 881-1212; Meeting ID: 534-607-162
Here are the TOP 10 REASONS you should weigh in on the child care state plan:
- Address the 30 percent decline in participation! There are likely several factors for this decline, including fewer providers willing to participate because of low rates. Voices has heard that one of the biggest barriers to participation over the last two years is the implementation of a requirement to participate in the child support enforcement system to receive subsidy.
- Enable providers to ask for a rate increase! The reimbursement rates paid to providers have not been increased since 2014. VDSS included in the plan that rates for Fairfax County can cover the costs of only a quarter of providers in Fairfax. The federal government has asked states to set rates at a level that covers 75 percent of providers.
- Expand Virginia Quality to link quality and access through tiered reimbursement! Our quality rating and improvement system, Virginia Quality, is an excellent system to set the mark for quality in early learning and to help providers attain quality. Currently working with 1,000 providers across the state, it is missing a critical element to incentivize quality improvement, the tiered reimbursement strategy to pay a higher subsidy rate to programs achieving higher quality.
- Increase compensation for a low-wage workforce! In a field that is noted for low pay, (“Why are the most important teachers paid the least?” NYTimes) increasing reimbursement rates could allow providers to pay their teachers more and help them attain professional skills and competencies.
- Increase infant and toddler set-aside funds to support quality improvement and access to care! The feds require 10-12 percent of child care funds be set aside for improving quality and supporting access for infant and toddler care. The additional funds will generate an increase in Virginia’s investments in these system improvements.
- Prevent suspension and expulsion and support social-emotional learning! VDSS and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) have released guidelines around how to prevent suspension and expulsion; however, other efforts around training and professional development or professional competencies are not aligned with these recommendations. These guidelines as well as considerations about how to serve homeless children open up a dialogue about trauma-informed practice.
- Implement health and safety improvements! The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization of 2014 included improvements to health and safety standards, such as fingerprint background checks. Through fall of 2018, VDSS is covering the cost of the first round of fingerprint checks.
- Ensure culturally and linguistically appropriate practices! Recently, providers in Northern Virginia fought back against a proposal requiring they speak English. Opportunities to highlight linguistically and culturally appropriate practices for providers and kids should be part of this conversation.
- Increase support for underserved communities! The federal reauthorization asked Virginia to identify ways to support high-poverty communities with limited access to child care. Virginia is working on a proposal to increase the number of home-based family child care providers in more rural parts of the state.
- Build a public-private partnership system with the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI)! A child care subsidy can provide an excellent resource to blend and braid funds to support full-day and full-year care to expand on the quality education provided through VPI.
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