Voices’ Blog

Starting Early and Working Together Works! Celebrating Progress from the 2016 GA Session

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

Even if there were not a lot of headlines, or committee hearings, on early childhood this session we are pleased to see that the groundswell of support from champions cultivated by the early childhood community over the last few years has translated into support for comprehensive investments in early childhood. We also know that we will keep early childhood policy on the radar in the coming weeks and months because of the various groups that will be asked to weigh in on policy recommendations in the future.

Below is the progress we made during the 2016 General Assembly Session:

Budget Items:

  • Significant expansion of home visiting parent and health education services- The final budget includes additional TANF funding- an additional $9.5 M for Healthy Families, $2 M for CHIP and $2 M for Resource Mothers over the biennium. This funding more than doubles the current Healthy Families funding.
  • Increase to early intervention (Part C) services to keep pace with referrals– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal to increase state funds for early intervention by $1.7 M in FY17 and $2.5 M in FY18.
  • Increase to VPI per pupil amount- Along with repurposing lottery funds to have more flexibility in the K-12 funding formula, the legislature recognized that the VPI per pupil amount had not increased since 2008 and recommended a 2% increase. The rate will change from $6,000 per pupil to $6,125. This equates to an additional $2.8 M over the biennium.
  • Statewide eligibility criteria for VPI with local flexibility– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal to establish a statewide income eligibility below 200% of poverty while allowing states to enroll up to 15% of their VPI students above the income cut-off if they met locally established risk factors.
  • New mixed-delivery preschool grant pilots– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal and approved a companion piece of legislation (HB47- Greason) to establish a two-year pilot of $1.5 M each year for testing new approaches for public-private preschool partnerships. We hope to see more of the successes we highlighted in our Preschool Partnership Stories from Alexandria and Fairfax.
  • Child Care Workforce Scholarships- The legislature recommended $600,000 the first year and $1.3 M the second for the creation of scholarships and a competency-based credentialing system through VECF.

A total of $25.4 M in new investments in early childhood education over the biennium.

Legislative Changes:

  • Established a criminal penalty if a child dies or is injured in unlicensed child care- “Joseph’s Law” (HB1198- Hester) continues the work from last session to improve the safety of child care.

Studies and Governance:

  • Creation of the School Readiness Council- Advocates, stakeholders and the Administration worked to broaden the scope of the proposed bill (HB46- Greason) to serve as a State Advisory Council for early learning. This bill would establish a permanent early learning council made up of legislators, Administration representatives, business leaders and stakeholders to provide leadership and make recommendations around cross-cutting issues of innovation in early childhood, such as pathways to professional development and licensure.
  • Workgroup to study health and safety in license-exempt child care– This resolution (SJ63- Hanger) defines the stakeholders representing licensed and license-exempt child care to work with the Department of Social Services to review the health and safety standards of child care programs.
  • JLARC study of effective early childhood programs- This resolution (SJ88- Norment) asks JLARC to do a two-year study of the early childhood programs in place in Virginia and make recommendations about the effectives of programs and options for aligning and improving programs.
  • Report on improving birth outcomes- The Department of Health is asked to produce a report on the best methods or programs for improving birth outcomes, low birth weight, and out of wedlock births.
  • Joint Subcommittee on Public Education/Standards of Quality- Establishes a new joint legislative subcommittee to look at the future of public education in Virginia.
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