Voices’ Blog

Speak Up on Plans to Improve VA’s Early Childhood Programs

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

This August is your chance to speak up on the direction of early childhood education in Virginia!  Governor Northam signed Directive 4 on July 24, 2019 to establish the School Readiness Leadership Team made up of Department of Education and Department of Social Services leaders. These leaders are tasked with four priorities—the first is to hold listening sessions around the Commonwealth to hear directly from early childhood educators and families with young children. See below for dates and locations.

In addition to Directive 4, the Governor and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation have released a Needs Assessment and draft Strategic Plan with more of the data and feedback necessary to improve the early childhood system. Review the Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan documents here. Provide written feedback on the documents to info@vecf.org.

Voices supports the Northam Administration’s approach to move the needle and invest in early childhood education. Most of the brain’s architecture is developed before a child turns five, yet we make the majority of our public investments much later in a child’s life. We have a solid foundation from which to build in Virginia— quality public preschool available to low-income students through the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) and Head Start and many examples of local collaborations or “mixed delivery models” among Head Start, subsidized care, public preschool, and private pay. It is time to fully maximize these programs to allow more children facing economic hardship to participate in preschool.

State leaders are looking to hear from you.  Attend one of these four meetings with the School Readiness Leadership Team or provide your written feedback to info@vecf.org. 

Monday, August 12
9:00 AM
Dominion Enterprises
150 Granby Street
Norfolk, Virginia 23510

Wednesday, August 14
10:00 AM
ACCA Child Development Center
7200 Columbia Pike, Suite 2
Annandale, Virginia 22003

Thursday, August 15
10:00 AM
Salem High School
400 Spartan Drive
Salem, Virginia 24153

Friday, August 16
2:00 PM
Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Department of Social Services
9501 Lucy Corr Circle
Chesterfield, Virginia 23832

What’s at Stake?

We know that 1-in-3 young children in Virginia faces economic hardship and that publicly funded opportunities only meet 30% of need.

Kindergarten readiness data show that 40% of students show up without the skills they need to succeed in kindergarten, and that economically disadvantaged students are more likely not to be ready for school.

The population of young children in Virginia is getting more diverse. We need to change the trajectory of equity by providing more opportunities for historically disenfranchised groups of children.

Improve the effectiveness and reach of early childhood programs by unifying early childhood governance and oversight. The Governor’s Directive instructs the state to build, pilot, and scale a uniform quality rating system for all programs receiving public funds.

There are dollars to maximize and reasons to invest more. Providing high quality early childhood education is not cheap. It requires prepared teachers who are well compensated, low teacher-to-student ratios and engaging, safe facilities. Early childhood educators receive low wages. In 2018, the federal government increased our child care funds by $40 million and the state lottery funding pool has grown, along with our investment in public preschool. These are two good signs for early childhood programs that have long been underfunded and not reached all potentially eligible children. Better alignment can maximize these resources.

To achieve these goals the state is looking to the expertise of early childhood educators, administrators, and advocates to include detailed proposals in the Governor’s budget and for consideration in the next General Assembly Session. Please take a few minutes to share your expertise at one of the upcoming listening tour dates or by commenting on the strategic plan.



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