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Tag Archive: early childhood

  1. Voices Supports Proposed Changes to Child Care Payment Rates and Parent Co-Pays

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    Voices supports the proposed improvements to child care payment rates and the parent copayment requirements. These proposed changes will greatly impact the under resourced child care sector as well as help parents who are looking for care, so that they can continue to work. While it has been long recognized that child care programs need more resources to provide quality care, educators need higher wages and parents need lower costs to afford the care. Solutions have often been piecemeal and insignificant with regards to impact in all three areas of need. This proposal has the potential to transform how staff are paid, how parents choose quality, affordable care, and how quality improvement resources are provided.

    Virginia is ranked 10th highest in the nation for child care costs. The average annual rate for an infant is $14,063 and $10,867 for a preschooler.

    In 2021, Voices supported Senator Jennifer McClellan’s proposal to improve child care by funding the true cost of quality care (SB1316 Bill Explainer). The adoption of this legislation prompted the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to examine its payment practices and to seek approval from the federal government to use an alternative payment methodology to set rates based on program inputs. During the pandemic, VDOE has had the ability to waive parent co-payments which has provided relief when many families experienced economic hardship. New copayment rates will help to reduce the burden on parents participating in the subsidy program. Recent policy changes have also improved the ability for parents to participate by raising maximum income requirements, removing child support requirements, and ending a lifetime limit of 72 months for receiving assistance.

    Impact of Proposed Changes on Program Funding

    The new payment rates have been set to reflect the costs of program inputs by including wages, program standards, curriculum, and quality improvement activities. Payment rates have been posted online and can be compared to previous rates. Under the previous reimbursement rate process, the market, or what parents could pay in a specific community, drove the costs. The new model considers rates at a regional level and takes into account different types of licensures. In doing this, it recognizes the educators in the classroom as the critical inputs, not the physical location.

    As payment rates are currently set by the age of the child, type of setting, and locality, the impact of the new payment rates in comparison to the old rates varies significantly across these three areas. Voices took a look at the new rates across jurisdictions to better understand impact. While there are a few localities who will not see rates increase for the preschool or school-aged age groups, every locality will see rate increases for providers. Each locality is now grouped into a region where the regional rate is equal across jurisdictions (unless the original market was higher).

    Some providers and jurisdictions will see minimal increases of $5 per day, or slightly less. However, a $5/day increase for child served for 260 days throughout the year would equal a $1,300 increase for the program. Some localities and providers will see much larger increases in the magnitude of $20-35 per day. A $20/day increase (for example, in a center serving infants in James City County) would equal $5,200 additional resources per year and a $35/day increase (for example, in a center serving infants in Wythe County) would equal $9,100 per year.

    As with any cost calculation, there will be some “winners” and “losers”. Providers in Northern Virginia will not see the same scale of increase as providers in more rural areas of the state. However, families looking for infant and toddler care will see significant rate increases as will home care providers serving school-age children. As we look to additional changes for payment practices and participation in the coming years, the state should consider the localities that do not receive significant increases in this proposal as a priority population. In particular, providers in Northern Virginia are not provided significant rate increases despite recent policy changes for Washington DC that increased rates and educator compensation. Failing to compete at the regional level could incentivize Virginia-based early educators to transition to nearby jurisdictions paying more.

    The proposed changes will roll out in three phases:

    • Phase I: Regional payment rates determined by cost to be implemented Oct 1, 2022.
    • Phase II: Create a voluntary wage scale to encourage programs to increase wages over time.
    • Phase III: Provide additional supports for continuous quality improvement based on VQB5 assessments.

    Impact on Early Educator Wages

    While the rate increases could impact programs to a varying degree depending on subsidy enrollment, ages of children, and jurisdiction, those who are receiving the increase will be asked to participate in a voluntary wage scale allowing VDOE to collect information on the current wages and to offer a benchmark to ensure educators are paid higher wages as a result of the rate increase. This wage scale is a very exciting component to help increase the compensation for early childhood professionals and family home care providers. Compensation was modeled to factor in the wages that teachers in public preschool programs were paid to put their private counterparts on equal footing. The voluntary scale will allow Virginia an opportunity to measure progress towards increasing compensation, particularly when other neighboring localities to Virginia have made this a focus.

    Impact on Parent Copayments

    The child care subsidy program can be an extremely valuable benefit to working families, but only if it provides the continuous affordable coverage they need to work. Proposals to reduce the parent co-pays and collapse income levels will help reduce benefit cliffs where families receive diminishing returns for higher wages by reducing their access to public benefits. The impact of the proposed changes would save some families $600 per year while others could save thousands of dollars. Families earning less than the poverty level (who currently make up 43% of children enrolled) would pay no copays under the proposed changes. These families would go from paying about $50 per month to no monthly contribution. Families just over poverty (100-200% FPL) would pay $60 per month in comparison to $135-185/month under the current structure, and parents above that rate would pay $120-180/month. Providers are allowed to charge parents for any difference between tuition rates and what is covered by subsidy reimbursement and parent co-pays.

    Public Comment Opportunity

    The reimbursement rate changes are program manual changes that do not require legislative approval, but will go through the public comment process and will be presented to the Board of Education.

    Public comments on the proposed changes can be emailed to  rr-earlychildhoodaccess@doe.virginia.gov by July 25, 2022. The current timeline has reimbursement rates taking effect October 2022 and copayment changes would take effect January 1, 2023.

  2. General Assembly 2022: Early Education Wrap-Up

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    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.

    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.

    Healthy Development

    • 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.
  3. Bill Explainer: Child Care Stabilization and “True Costs” of Quality SB1316 (McClellan)

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    There are two truths in early childhood education: parents can’t afford to pay any more for child care and teachers can’t afford to earn any less. The imbalance in this equation is due to the fact that child care is an expensive endeavor—low teacher to student ratios, safety precautions, play materials, etc. add up. For too long these costs have been passed along to parents for what they can “afford”. Now the average cost of infant care in Virginia is more than college tuition. 

    At the same time as costs were getting too high for parents, teachers also were not able to earn living wages. A recent UVA study of the racial composition and compensation of the early childhood workforce found that two out of five early educators in child care centers reported household incomes under $25,000. Prior to the pandemic, the national median wage in child care was $10-14 per hour.

    Long-term, we need more public investments to decrease costs for parents while providing better compensation to teachers. Short-term, we need creative solutions.

    Bill Explainer:

    Senator Jennifer McClellan’s SB1316 seeks to make a number of changes to stabilize the child care sector and improve our options to pay for the “true cost” of quality. These changes would utilize existing state and federal funds through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and/or federal COVID relief funds to pay for these initiatives.

    • To promote flexibility for child care providers to hire new staff and use substitutes, the legislation establishes a plan for portable background checks. Currently an employee’s background check stays with their employer instead of the individual. Del. John McGuire has a companion bill (HB2086) to implement portable background checks.
    • To establish a two-year pilot program to allow the state to contract with child care providers based on enrollment instead of attendance. The contract would also determine payment amounts based on the inputs for high-quality, full-time services and equitable compensation for early educators. 
    • To collect data on the inputs and costs related to providing high-quality services and the outcomes for quality improvement, workforce retention, and financial stability. 
    • To work in conjunction with the School Readiness Committee to evaluate the pilot and make recommendations for future payment practices and cost-of-quality reimbursement methods. 

    These innovations on how Virginia would pay for child care services are allowed by federal authorization, but few states take these options. Virginia would be a leader in moving down the path of providing flexibility and stability to the child care sector by using our funds for child care in these ways.

    We are also learning more about other bills that would improve access and affordability in child care and will add more to this space! Sign up to receive policy emails and the latest updates straight to your inbox.

  4. 2021 General Assembly Session: Early Care and Education Priorities

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    There is no question that 2020 has dramatically changed the early learning sector in Virginia. As of late November, one-third of the licensed child care capacity in the state were still closedMost of our public preschool programs are offering virtual instruction for students. The impact of this year will have long-term implications for children as well as the child care sector.  

    We must recognize that our child care sector has only achieved stability at this level through additional federal resources. Nearly $170 million in response funds have been directed to child care and public preschool by the legislature and the Northam administration. This level of investment has been essential to keeping many providers open and allowing educators to offer care and instruction for the last nine months.

    We know that, due to the economic impact of COVID-19 on the state, additional state funds may be hard to come by this year. Our talking points for the 2021 legislative session will focus on two themes: 

    1. Improving compensation for early educators who have worked on the front lines.
    2. Building social-emotional supports into every aspect of our early learning systems.

    Improving Compensation for Early Educator Frontline Heroes

    recent UVA study of the racial composition and compensation of the early childhood workforce found that two out of five early educators in child care centers reported household incomes under $25,000. 35 percent of early educators reported decreased earnings back in May due to COVID-19 closuresBefore the pandemic, the median wage in child care was $10-14 an hour across the country. Educators in the private child care sector tend to usually be women of color—lead teachers in private programs were three times more likely to be Black than teachers in public preschool programs.

    In order for young children to continue to have loving and prepared caregivers and for parents to find child care, we must ensure there is a workforce to support children and support the sector. For the many child care programs that have remained open, early educators have put themselves at-risk of exposure to love and nurture our babies. These heroes deserve to be compensated in line with their importance in our society and in children’s lives.

    Incentive Payments: The Northam Administration has offered $1,500 incentive payments to some educators in PDG B-5 pilot communities. In FY20, about $3 mil distributed to 2,000 teachers as $1,500 recognition payments and another $3 mil is set to be distributed this year. UVA study comparing those who received an incentive and those who did not showed that the recognition payment reduced teacher turnover in child care centersWe will support additional incentive payments for educators and efforts that seek to increase minimum wages in child care settings by offering additional financial support.

    Building in Social-Emotional Supports into Every Aspect

    We don’t yet know the full impact that the pandemic will have on young children, but we do know that the stressors of the pandemic can produce a long-term impact on quickly growing and developing young brains. For children of color, the economic and emotional impact of the pandemic is layered on top of racial and historical trauma for their families and their communities.  

    Recent Census Household Pulse data shows that more than one in five parents in Virginia reported feeling hopeless or depressed. We know that when parents struggle with their mental health their children are also likely to struggle. We have heard directly from early educators who feel the toll of being on the front lines and who worry about their own health and serving children who are facing months of trauma and disruption. We must do better to support children and their caregivers in response to the pandemic.

    VDOE and state partners conducted a study on implementing mental health consultation models in child care this fall and found a few opportunities to start building up our systems. We believe that agency administrators and program leaders from Education, Social Services, Mental Health and Health agencies should review their professional development and program support plans to support services for social-emotional health into every program plan. This would include efforts such as additional social-emotional screening tools for children, implicit bias and equity training for educators, service linkages and workforce development efforts. To ensure a statewide system of support for children and caregivers there must be a multi-pronged and multi-faceted response with support from the legislature and administration creating a foundation of solid social-emotional wellness.

    Long Term Big, Bold Vision for ECE

    As we look to the long-term of the future of early education, we know we have to address a long standing problem— parents can’t afford to pay any more for child care and early educators can’t afford to earn any less. As we seek long-term solutions to rebuild this sector, we will keep these dual goals in mind to identify and support public investments and tools that can provide better pay for teachers and supports for the overall system to keep costs down for parents. We cannot go back to a system that requires parents to pay more than college tuition for their child care. And we cannot go back to a system that is based on paying low wages to teachers and caregivers. The recognition that child care is essential for our workforce should change the positioning and prominence of child care on any state and federal policy agenda in the future. It is critical to have your advocacy to continue to support it.

    Sign up to receive early education news via email including relevant legislation and opportunities to weigh in.

  5. Early Childhood Education in the House and Senate Budgets

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    We are closer to seeing the largest state investment in early childhood education in Virginia! The budgets approved by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee on Sunday, Feb. 16th keep most of the Governor’s proposals for early childhood in place.

    The next step is for the House and Senate to appoint conferees to negotiate differences in the budget. Look for an action alert in the coming days targeted to these negotiators.

    The only disappointment is a reduction in the proposed $10 million per year for mixed-delivery grants administered by VECF. The House proposed reducing funding for these grants by $7 million per year and the Senate proposed reducing funding by $2 million per year. Currently VECF administers $1.25 million in state-funded mixed-delivery grants. The House budget would provide 500 fewer mixed-delivery slots than the Senate budget.

    As we have noted, the outcomes for children in mixed-delivery preschool settings are on par with the outcomes of children in public preschool.  And, we have learned from other states, models that move all 3 & 4 year-olds to public schools make it too costly to offer affordable child care for infants and toddlers. We also believe that parents should choose the best settings to meet their preferences and needs, and that might be a full-day, year-round child care program.

    Mixed-delivery settings are critical to any expansion of public preschool. Providers, educators, and parents must speak up for need for additional access to mixed-delivery preschool settings to be included in the final budget. The mixed-delivery grant program administered through VECF provides more flexibility in how state dollars can be used to support classrooms including the hours/timeframe of programs, the credentials of the classroom teachers, and the required local match. There is not a one-size fits all approach for each community to expand access to preschool, and these mixed-delivery grants help communities adjust to the challenges preventing them from serving more families.

    While the total amount of available funding will depend on the final agreed upon budget due to be approved by March 7th, communities interested in expanding mixed-delivery slots can learn more about how to apply here. Letters of intent to apply are due March 20th.

    Even with this small setback, we will celebrate expanded access and stronger preschool programs. If you did not get to take part in the celebration of early learning, the “Playdate at the Capitol” on Feb. 17th look at our photo album to check out all the fun!

     

     

     

  6. Early Childhood Education Budget Details- Gov. Northam’s Proposed Budget

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    As we learned from the exciting announcements from December 9th on maternal health and December 10th on early education, Governor Northam’s FY2021-2022 budget makes significant investments in healthy births and young children. These investments will help to close the opportunity gaps and help to ensure all children enter school healthy and ready to learn. Read more about the budget proposals here:

    An additional $95 M to serve economically disadvantaged 3 & 4 year-olds in public and private preschool

    Low-income families and children will benefit from additional support to attend preschool. Private preschool providers will benefit from tools and incentives to support mixed-delivery. Localities will benefit from additional in-kind contributions for local match and flexibility to collaborate among programs. These proposals include:

    • Increasing the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) per pupil amount to $6,959 in FY21 & $7,655 in FY22;
    • Providing an $2,500 incentive per child to promote mixed-delivery of services through private providers for approximately 2,000 students;
    • Providing an additional $13 M over two years to fund increased VPI class sizes and teacher to student ratios;
    • Increasing the in-kind contribution for local match from 25 percent to up to 50 percent.
    • Creating a set-aside to serve children in localities that having waiting lists for preschool.
    • Allocating funds and establishing a process to serve additional three-year-olds; and
    • Providing $10 M per year for mixed-delivery grants administered by VECF and expanding those grants to serve 3 year-olds.

    Additional early childhood system improvements include:

    • An additional $8 M over two years to increase the Early Childhood Educator Incentive created through the Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five grant.
    • Increased support for VPI classroom observations and professional development.
    • Transfer the responsibility of the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) grant from the Department of Social Services to the Department of Education and consolidate state oversight with the Department of Education and the Board of Education. Transfer would be in effect July 2021. Along with the oversight transfer 150 licensing positions to the Department of education.
    • Increase funding for Part C – Early Intervention services by $2.5 M in FY21 and $3.9M in FY22 to serve 4% increase in children identified.

    Reduce racial disparities in maternal health and improve healthy births

    • Provide $13 M in state funding and the authority to submit a state plan amendment to create a home visiting service for high risk pregnant women and new mothers funded by Medicaid. Asks the Medicaid agency to create a stakeholder workgroup to shape the proposal.
    • Additional funding to extend FAMIS MOMS coverage for low-income pregnant women to 12 months postpartum.
    • Adds language to study a Medicaid benefit for doula care.
  7. Local Budgets, Local Choices for School Readiness

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    The 2016 General Assembly session is over but the action is heating up locally in Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria!

    The localities have the task of implementing state policy and applying state investments, while juggling competing priorities to determine local investment in early care and education for Fiscal Year 2017.

    Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria have a history of leadership for school readiness services and now is the time to grow. Let’s take action together!

    Action Roundup

    Voices for Virginia’s Children collaborated with advocates in the City of Alexandria to testify at the City Council budget hearing on March 14 (see more below). The path to quality also includes a strong foundation in child care licensing. This can get complicated and the details matter when a locality works to aim higher than a state’s minimums. Arlington’s challenges with this prompted Voices to weigh in and urge them to pause while the state implemented its changes required by federal law. Next up: action in Fairfax.

    Are you a school readiness advocate in Fairfax, Arlington or Northern Virginia? Sign up for alerts from Voices for Virginia’s Children!

    Fairfax Action Resources

    Sign-on letter on the Fairfax County Budget – organizations and program providers, please make your voice heard in the Fairfax County budget debate by signing on to this letter! To add your organization name, please email Mary Beth, our Northern Virginia Policy Consultant, at marybeth@mbstsolutions.com by April 6! The letter will be delivered to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

    Fairfax County budget proposal

    Fairfax County budget calendar

    Preschool in Fairfax: Start with the Children, Go Where They Are

    Alexandria Action Resources

    Voices for Virginia’s Children testimony to the City Council March 14, 2016 – Voices for Virginia’s Children and colleagues at Campagna Center, Child and Family Network Centers, Hopkins House, ALIVE! Child Development Center and the Northern Virginia AEYC urged the Alexandria City Council to invest in VPI and child care access and quality, and to engage in thoughtful problem-solving to serve at-risk children in community-based programs and school-based programs.

    City of Alexandria budget proposal

    City of Alexandria budget calendar

    Preschool in Alexandria: A Committed Relationship Takes Work

    Projected VPI Slots for City of Alexandria

    Arlington Action Resources

    Arlington County budget proposal

    News You Can Use

    “Alexandria Could Raise Tax Rate by Up to Three Cents” Washington Post March 17, 2016

    “Alexandria Proposes Small Tax Increase to Fund Schools and Raises” Washington Post February 23, 2016

    “Fairfax County Executive Proposes 4-cent Increase to Meet Rising Needs” Washington Post February 16, 2016

    “Arlington Proposes Half-cent Cut in Property Taxes” Washington Post February 18, 2016

    “Starting Early and Working Together Works! Celebrating Progress from 2016 GA Session” Voices for Virginia’s Children blog, March 14, 2016

    Governor McAuliffe’s Budget Proposal for ECE Voices for Virginia’s Children blog, December 17, 2015

     

     

  8. What is included in Governor McAuliffe’s budget for early childhood?

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    At Voices we believe that preparing kids to succeed in school takes a comprehensive approach engaging parents, communities, teachers and schools. This is the approach that Voices and our partners in the Early Childhood Policy Network have outlined in our Unified Policy Agenda- “Starting Early and Working Together”. We are pleased to see budget that makes additional investments in each of those areas to impact school readiness through a birth to preschool approach and to ensure that more children can experience high quality early learning.

    What is included in Governor McAuliffe’s budget for early childhood?

    • Support for parents to become empowered as their child’s first teacher by expanding Virginia’s home visiting network- $15.5 million

    The Governor teamed up with the Lt. Governor, Ralph Northam, to announce a significant increase in Virginia’s evidence-based home visiting programs, CHIP of Virginia and Healthy Families Virginia to restore program cuts and expand to serve more families. The budget includes an increase in funding for CHIP of $1 million each year and an increase for Healthy Families of $6.75 million each year. While this increase will help to reach more of the at-risk families with in-home parenting and health education, the two organizations receiving these funds, and the Home Visiting Consortium, had developed a plan for the Consortium to receive the funds to support capacity building and collaboration.

    • Additional funding for developmental therapies for infants and toddlers served by Early Intervention (Part C)- $4.2 million

    To meet the increasing number of infants and toddlers with identified developmental delays, an additional $1.7 million is included in FY17 and $2.5 million in FY18.

    • Improvements to child care safety

    Language is included in the budget to allocate resources as needed to implement new licensing standards for family day homes. Budget language, additional funds and positions are included to extend the fingerprint background checks to all licensed and regulated child care providers. Language is also included in the budget stating that the Department of Social Services shall work with the localities that currently inspect child care programs to minimize duplication and overlap of inspections.

    • Additional funding for child care assistance- $20 million

    Around $10 million in additional funding is allocated each year of the biennium to help low-income working families afford child care.

    • Access to the Virginia Preschool Initiative- Some local flexibility in eligibility

    The Governor’s budget does not include any increases to the Virginia Preschool Initiative and provides flat funding at $69 million for each year of the biennium. However, the budget does include two language provisions that will help to ensure access to VPI across Virginia’s diverse communities. The first provision is that no community should have fewer slots than they used in the previous year. The second provision is to allow for some local flexibility in eligibility decisions. The eligibility criteria outlined in the budget is consistent with the four eligibility factors established last year (below 200% poverty, homeless, child of HS drop out, below 350% poverty for student with special needs or disability). The language adds that up to 15% of a division’s slots may be filled based on locally established eligibility criteria to meet the needs of at-risk children in the community.

    • More opportunities for public-private partnerships and workforce development- $6.9 million

    The Governor’s budget proposal includes $1.5 million in funding each year to expand access to preschool through public-private partnerships. We believe this approach is a win-win-win for the private sector, schools lacking classroom space and children who could benefit from high-quality early learning. Funding would go to the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to administer the grants.

    The budget also includes $1.6 million the first year and $2.3 million the second year for a scholarship program for the early childhood workforce to be administered by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.

    For more information on these proposals, contact Emily Griffey at Emily@vakids.org.

  9. Federal Wins for Early Childhood Education

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    The first two weeks of December have brought big wins at the federal level for early childhood education. Last week, the reauthorization of the Early and Secondary Education Act (now the Every Student Succeeds Act) included early childhood for the first time. The new act authorizes a new take on the Preschool Development Grants that Virginia currently receives. Our funding for the VPI+ grant would remain, but the focus in the future would allow states to do more collaborative planning to expand preschool programs and would be less prescriptive. The new language also clarifies that other funds in the ESSA can be used for preschool classrooms as well. You can read more about these details over at EdCentral.

    This week, the House and Senate reached a budget deal for the current fiscal year that allocates significant funding increases to early childhood education including the following:

    • An increase of $326 million for the Child Care Development Block Grant. This maintains a set aside of $127 million for infants and toddlers that is slightly more than FY2015.
    • An increase of $570 million for Head Start, which includes $294 million for supplemental funding to increase the hours of Head Start program operation, and a $135 million increase for Early Head Start, Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships, and conversions from Head Start to Early Head Start.
    • The continuation of $250 million for Preschool Development Grants through the Department of Education.
    • A $15 million increase in IDEA Part B Preschool Grant; and
    • A  $20 million increase in IDEA Part C Grants for Infants and Families.

    In addition, the bill makes permanent both the refundable tax credits for low-income families through the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit as well as making permanent a partially refundable tax credit for college tuition expenses. Without the changes in the Child Tax Credit, 8 million children would have been pushed into poverty.

  10. Next steps in Charlottesville?

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    Voices for Virginia’s Children is pleased to update the Charlottesville community and others with the notes from the Community Conversation about Children’s Mental Health we hosted in December, as well as outline next steps. You can read the full recap here.

    Strengths that were mentioned included the relative wealth of resources in the Charlottesville area compared to other areas of the state, particularly rural areas. Strong nonprofits, a CSB that provides an array of children’s services, and collaboration among organizations were cited as strengths. Participants also appreciated that there are organizations in Charlottesville focused on the entire spectrum of interventions, from prevention and early intervention for families through treatment for children with diagnosed mental health disorders.

    Even as well-resourced as Charlottesville is, however, every aspect of the continuum has inadequate capacity to meet the need. Challenges fell into several main categories:
    – not enough focus on prevention and early intervention;
    – a variety of barriers to existing services;
    – gaps in services—things that are needed but don’t exist, or which exist but have inadequate capacity to meet the need; and
    – a need for citizen advocacy to move the needle on state level policy, according to Sen. Deeds.

    So, what do we do next? Voices and the Campaign are very interested in helping regional partners in Charlottesville form a coalition on children’s mental health so that the community can move forward on some of the suggestions made at the Community Conversation. Is your organization willing to be involved? Please email Campaign Coordinator Ashley Everette at ashley@vakids.org.