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Tag Archive: early education

  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. 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.

  3. 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.

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  4. A Big Investment in Little Learners: Early Education Results from the 2020 GA Session

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    Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pam Northam ran on a promise to expand early childhood education. And the Governor’s signature budget delivered with initiatives to expand access to more economically disadvantaged 3 & 4 year-olds through the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI). These financial investments, along with early education reform initiatives pushed by the Administration to move oversight for all early education programs to the Department of Education received bi-partisan support from the House and Senate and are on the way to the Governor’s desk to sign into law!

    2020 Playdate at the Capitol RECAP 

    Thanks to all of the advocates and supporters that contributed to this successful day!

    Legislative Champions Across the Aisle

    In the legislature, the Governor’s early childhood proposals received strong support from patrons Senator Janet Howell and Delegate David Bulova, as well as committee chairs Delegate Roslyn Tyler, Delegate Delores McQuinn, and Senator Louise Lucas who stepped up to shepherd these initiatives through their committees. Other legislators brought their own ideas to the table to improve on the Governor’s proposals. Delegate Mark Sickles championed a study to implement early childhood mental health consultation statewide. Delegate Alex Askew and Senator Jeremy McPike carried bills to require lead testing potable water in child care facilities. And Senator Jennifer Boysko carried the final step in legislation to ensure our fingerprint background checks for early educators met federal guidelines. Every bill received the support of both Republicans and Democrats to pass.

    Additional Investments in Early Childhood Total More than $85 million Over Two Years

    Additional state funds for early education expansion in FY21= $35 million and FY22= $50 million

    Gov’s proposed 2-year budget FY21 actual FY22 actual
    Funding for VPI & VPI+ $186 million $93 million $93.8 million
    VECF mixed-delivery grants $2.6 million $1.3 million $1.3 million
    CLASS observation and professional development $3.4 million $1.7 million $1.7 million
    Continue education of provisionally licensed ECE teachers $600,000 $300,000 $300,000

    Enhancements to Early Education Funding

    Increase VPI per pupil amount to $6,959 in FY21 and $7,655 in FY22 $26.9 million $8.7 million $18.2 million
    Pilot to expand VPI to serve 3 year-olds $8.9 million $2.8 million $6.1 million
    Increase VPI class size & staffing $13.5 million $6.4 million $7.1 million
    Reallocate VPI slots and eliminate wait list $7.3 million $4 million $3.3 million
    Private provider incentive add-on (see detail below) $10 million $5 million $5 million
    Early childhood educator incentive bonus $8 million $3 million $5 million
    Literacy Lab Minority VPI Fellows $300,000
    Expand VECF administered mixed-delivery & pilot serving 3-year-olds $17 million $5 million $5 million
    TOTAL $91.6 million $35.2 million $49.7 million
    FINAL TWO YEAR TOTAL

    $85 million

    Additional Details on the Budget and Implementation

    With the stamp of approval for the final budget, local leaders and advocates are encouraged to think about how their communities will take advantage of additional VPI dollars. In addition to the above line item, the final budget includes several initiatives to encourage maximizing resources for ECE at the local level. Budget language includes:

    • Provisions to increase the in-kind contributions for the local match for VPI up to 50%.
    • Provisions to seek a waiver to serve greater than 15% of children with locally established risk criteria beyond income criteria at 200% of poverty.
    • Provisions to certify that all local Head Start program slots are filled (serving children in families below 100% poverty) before VPI is expanded.
    • Flexibility for seeking additional slots to serve children on the wait list.
    • Flexibility for private provider incentives ranging from $3,500 per child in Northern Virginia to $1,500 per child in rural areas.
    • Language to study the methods to annually adjust the costs of VPI for inflation (rebenchmark) rather than specific policy changes.

    There will are several big steps along the way to ensure a smooth transition of early education programs to VDOE. Read more of the implementation timeline outlined by the Administration. And communities can begin to take advantage of mixed-delivery grants right now! Letters of intent are due March 20th!

  5. When Families Work, Everything Works Better- A Two-Generation Approach

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    A two-generation approach to address poverty, income and employment is called for in a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Creating Opportunity for Families: A Two-Generation Approach. The two-generation approach could benefit more than 200,000 young children in Virginia who live in families with no full-time, year-round employment. The strategies highlighted in the KIDS COUNT® policy report propose integrating state and federal employment, education and child care programs to create better opportunities for the entire family.

    Virginia’s previous success with this approach is highlighted through the example of the Comprehensive Health Improvement Project (CHIP) home visiting program. CHIP sites across Virginia connect families with infants and toddlers to build important skills, such as creating routines, managing their families and bolstering their children’s health — all of which smooth parents’ path to employment. The two-generation services offered by CHIP led to a 40 percent increase in employment among participating families.

    “Home visiting works to get families working,” said Lisa Specter-Dunaway, CEO of CHIP of Virginia. “And when families work, everything else works better.”

    The report calls for comprehensive and collaborative approaches to align policies that benefit both children and families, especially those at-risk families with limited employment and educational options. The three recommendations of the report—creating policies to help children and parents, structuring systems to serve families and using existing programs to build evidence for pathways out of poverty- fall within the purview of the recently formed Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success. This Council will make recommendations seeking to shape Virginia’s policies around early childhood development and will review how Virginia’s systems are poised to meet the needs of families with young children.

    Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, chair of the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success, said, “It is past time for Virginia to put every effort towards strengthening our early childhood system. The Council is working to develop recommendations focused on creating better policy and structuring our systems to lift up economically disadvantaged families with young children.”

    The report was featured by Virginia News Connection on November 12, 2014.