Voices had the opportunity to present to the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the House Appropriations Committee this Wednesday. Our policy director, Emily Griffey, shares her thoughts about what policymakers should consider to improve access to high-quality early childhood opportunities.
I’ve been disturbed by this trend. Over the last five years, our outcomes on the PALS-K literacy assessment have gotten worse each year. In fall 2017, we were back to 16 percent of kids entering school without the literacy skills they needed to succeed in kindergarten–the same place we were in fall 2007.
While we cannot draw a direct correlation between the reason for the decline in PALS-K data, we do know the decline corresponds to when the recession hit, resulting in more young children growing up in poverty between 2009-2014. The recession had a huge impact not only on families, but also on our state and local budgets. Fewer resources were available to offer more early childhood opportunities, and Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) enrollment stalled.
We need to correct this trend immediately. While we have great buy-in on early childhood, most of our policy improvements in recent years have focused on piloting efforts, forming new committees, or measuring progress. What we really need now is some big picture thinking to turn that curve around.
Here are some of the ideas we presented to the House Appropriations Committee to go big:
And we should ensure these big ideas include a focus on infants and toddlers and engaging parents.
While these issues may seem too big to tackle, I would argue that with legislative committees like the Joint Subcommittee on VPI Reform, the School Readiness Council, and what will hopefully be a continuation of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, we have several venues through which we can do it.
We also have short-term opportunities that advocates should keep on the horizon:
Feb. 19- Look for recommendations around improving the quality of VPI in the House Appropriations budget report and advocate for inclusion in the final budget.
March 23- This is the deadline for Congress to act on appropriations and make good on the promise to double CCDBG discretionary funds for our child care subsidy and quality improvement systems.
April- The State Child Care Fund Plan is open for public comment. This can be an opportunity to advocate for tiered reimbursement or other quality improvement strategies in early childhood.
Summer- Look for evaluations of VPI+ and mixed-delivery preschool models for quality features and effective partnership arrangements.
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