Tag Archive: preschool

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


    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

    $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!

  3. Details of the Proposed House and Senate Budget Deal, Including Medicaid Expansion

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    The House Appropriations Committee shared the details of the proposed House and Senate FY19 & FY20 budget deal on May 21, 2018, before the Senate was scheduled to vote. However, on May 22, the Senate postponed its expected vote on the budget and moved to convene the Senate Finance Committee on May 29 and vote as a full Senate after that meeting. While this extends the vote for one more week, it is helpful for children’s advocates to know what was included in the budget proposal and to signal support to your state delegate and senator.

    Medicaid Expansion

    Similar to the House proposal at the end of session, the proposed budget deal includes the two-step process to cover the uninsured by seeking a state plan amendment to begin to draw down federal dollars, while simultaneously seeking a waiver from the federal government to expand Medicaid with additional eligibility requirements. This version of the budget deal includes the hospital provider assessment and invests in reimbursement increases for hospitals and improvements to the behavioral health system. Michael Martz of the Richmond Times-Dispatch provides a comprehensive look at what is included in the budget here.

    Mental Health

    The proposed budget deal includes significant investments in mental health, including these Voices’ priorities:

    • Rolling out a statewide system of alternative transportation for adults and children under a temporary detention order at $2.5 million in FY19 and $4.5 million in FY20.
    • Implementation of the STEP-VA plan to ensure a more comprehensive and consistent array of behavioral health services at each of the 40 community services boards (CSBs), including: finish implementing same-day access to services at all 40 CSBs, implement primary care health screenings at all 40 CSBs, and begin adding capacity for outpatient treatment ($15 million) and detox services ($2 million) in FY20 at some CSBs.

    State Policy Approaches for Childhood Trauma

    We are encouraged by policymakers’ interest in creating trauma-informed systems. The budget proposal includes these priorities from Voices’ policy agenda:

    Improvements to the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI)

    The proposed budget includes a total of $11.1 million over the biennium to invest in VPI.

    • An increase of $2.3 million each year to increase the VPI per pupil rate by $201 per student
    • Funding to school divisions to help provisionally licensed teachers in VPI programs obtain their license ($2.3 million each year)
    • Additional resources for VDOE to develop a plan for quality improvement in VPI including classroom observations and student assessments
    • Additional funds to conduct classroom observations in all VPI classrooms by the end of the 2019-20 school year
    • An additional $1 million over the biennium to work with UVA CASTL to provide professional development for VPI teacher
    • Clarification that the VPI local match requirement can be met with private funds
    • Clarification of language about reallocating VPI slots to communities that use their entire allocation

    Early Childhood System Improvements

    Beyond VPI, the signature public preschool program, the proposed budget takes some steps to improve Virginia’s other early childhood systems.

    • Invests $850,000 of TANF funds over two years to strengthen Early Impact Virginia as the home visiting umbrella organization
    • Expands the scope of the Joint Subcommittee on the Virginia Preschool Initiative to include exploring Virginia Quality improvement system, Head Start and other recommendations of the JLARC report on early childhood
    • Includes a new requirement for all school divisions to participate in the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Project (VKRP) student direct assessment by the end of the 2019-20 school year. Some of the funds for expansion include training on how to use the tool to improve instructional practices. Language also directs the VKRP to be expanded as a post-assessment given at the end of the kindergarten school year.
    • Provides $1.25 million in CCDBG funds over the two years to implement a pilot project through UVA CASTL for private and faith-based child care programs
    • Asks VDOE to work with the departments of social services, health and planning and budget to create a workgroup, facilitated by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, to explore leveraging and aligning existing early childhood funding streams

    In addition, the budget proposal also includes funding to support the implementation of previously enacted legislation, including:

    • Funding of $47,000 each year for staff at the Department of Health to collect data and information on the plan of services for substance-exposed infants
    • Funding for the implementation of KinGAP, financial resources for kinship caregivers when children are not eligible for other foster care placements
    • An additional $28 million in FY19 and $43 million in FY20 of non-general funds to accept the federal increase in child care assistance funds enacted by Congress in February 2018

    Contact your delegate and senator before Tuesday 5/29 asking for support of this budget proposal. Click through for a email template you can use and edit to make your own.

  4. 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



  5. EC Policy Network Unified Agenda Roll Out- 12/19


    Calling all stakeholders in early childhood and advocates for young children and their families…. You are invited to participate in the the roll out of the 2015 Early Childhood Policy Network Unified Agenda.


    A network of more than 20 organizations has developed this comprehensive policy agenda for Virginia’s youngest children seeking to “Build the Path to Virginia’s Prosperity“. To ensure our decision-makers give careful consideration to these issues and prioritize early childhood we will need all of you as stakeholders and advocates to weigh in. Join with us to learn more about the details of the Unified Policy Agenda and opportunities for action.

    EC Policy Network Unified Policy Agenda – 2015 Roll Out Conference Call

    Friday, December 19th 12:00- 1:00 PM

    Sign-Up Now to Participate

    (please provide your email to participate; call in number will be provided after sign-up)

    This call will cover the details of the EC Policy Network policy priorities, updates from the Governor’s budget proposal, key legislative dates and opportunities for action. If you are interested in tracking the following policy issues during session you will find this call useful:

    – Safety in all child care settings, including small family homes

    – Quality and professional development in early learning settings

    – Investments in two-generation approaches, such as home visiting and early intervention

    – Increasing enrollment in the Virginia Preschool Initiative

    – Alignment to ensure collaboration and coordination 

    If you have more questions about the EC Policy Network please contact Emily Griffey at (804) 649-0184 or emily@vakids.org.