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Early Care and Education

Brain researchers, economists, and business leaders all agree – investments in early care and education provide the biggest return on investment. Over the last 10 years, scientists have discovered how early experiences shape the architecture of the brain before a child turns five. Economists have found a long-term return on investment for children who participate in high-quality early care and education. And business leaders have stepped up to the plate to advocate for their future workforce.

Despite this broad base of support, too many children in Virginia do not have the high-quality early care and education experiences to prepare them for success in school. Parents, caregivers, professionals, and schools all have a role to play in shaping our children’s school readiness. Yet many of the systems to support young children and families are splintered and can not provide enough opportunities for all children who could benefit. Voices advocates for more opportunities.


How Voices Works:

Our early childhood agenda takes a comprehensive approach, recognizing that young children need strong families, supportive communities, and quality caregivers. We build this agenda by serving as a neutral convener for many of the stakeholders in early childhood to share their needs and determine the highest priorities. Each year, Voices’ policy network puts forth a Unified Early Childhood Policy Agenda outlining these shared priorities.

2022 Early Childhood Care and Education Legislative Priorities:

Parents have to pay too much for child care and early childhood professionals have earned too little. To solve this dilemma, we need more public investment in a mixed-delivery system of early education and preschool that must include home-based providers, private child care centers, and public schools. We must also measurably improve compensation for early childhood professionals and provide more support for families needing infant and toddler care. 

Early Childhood Care and Education Priorities 

  1. Stabilize the child care sector by encouraging the use of grants and contracts, particularly for settings ideal for infants and toddlers and in child care deserts. 
  2. Maximize participation in state-funded Virginia Preschool Initiative programs by improving flexibility to support public-private partnerships and to recruit and retain qualified professionals. 
  3. Make the COVID-era changes to eligibility for the child care subsidy program permanent, including higher income eligibility, allowing for eligibility during job search, and reducing/eliminating parent co-pays.

Without a strong child care system:

  • Parents can’t work. 68% of working parents in Virginia say someone in their household’s job is currently being impacted by lack of access to child care. (Virginia Promise in Action Poll, December 2021)
  • Children can’t learn. 42% of Virginia’s kindergarteners started the 2021 school year without foundational skills including: 52% of Black students, 60% of Hispanic students, 67% of English language/Multilingual learner and 56% of students from low-income backgrounds. (Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program, Fall 2021)
  • Child care providers can’t operate. 74% of Virginia child care centers reported experiencing staffing shortages last year. (NAEYC Survey, June 2021)

Bills We Support:

Regional Early Education System and Overpayment Fund | HB 389 |Delegate David Bulova: Strengthens Virginia’s early childhood education system through more robust public-private regional infrastructure and improvements to the Child Care Subsidy Program.

Status: Passed House of Delegates and Senate and signed into law.

Child Care Subsidy Eligibility for Armed Forces |HB 994 / SB 529|Delegate Emily Brewer and Senator Bryce Reeves: Extends the Child Care Subsidy Program eligibility to all members of the Armed Forces.

Status: Bills are amended to a study of future eligibility and have been approved by the relevant committees.

Streamline Background Checks | SB 574 | Senator Monty Mason: Improves the background check process in an effort to address ongoing child care staffing shortages while upholding safety.

Status: Approved by the Senate (40-0) but failed on the House floor. The state Department of Social Services was asked to look at ways to speed up the process to conduct background checks.

Bills We Are Monitoring:

Optional VKRP Implementation |HB 41 | Delegate Phillip Scott: Would allow school divisions to opt out of administering the VA Kindergarten Readiness Project assessments.

Status: Tabled in the Early Education and Innovation subcommittee of House Education with a letter to DOE to review the time assessments take.

Budget Amendments We Support:  

Improve financial assistance to afford child care by dedicating available federal funds to:

  • Continuing the eligibility for families with children under five up to 85% of the state median income (Included in BOTH House and Senate proposed budgets)
  • Allow a family to become eligible while looking for a job (protect introduced budget);
  • Reducing the parent co-pays (protect introduced budget);
  • Eliminate 72 month time limit to receive assistance (protect introduced budget)

Reduce staff turnover in early childhood classrooms and recruit new professionals:

  • Expanding teacher incentives offered under the Early Childhood Educator Grant Program ($5 million increase accepted from introduced budget);
  • Supporting early childhood education degree programs and professional development (House language delays “Grow Your Own” Educator Program).
  • Allow for provisional employment after an FBI background check is complete and before the Central Registry check is complete (this would take effect as soon as budget is signed)
  • Require the State Based Health Exchange to target child care providers for enrollment and navigation services (Budget amendment- Favola/Sickles)

Provide more access to preschool programs by strengthening and innovating the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) by:

  • Increasing the per-pupil allocation to reflect the true cost of quality early education (protect introduced budget);
  • Provide flexibility to serve more students with disabilities and 3 year-olds and 5 year-olds in VPI funded programs (House reduces the funding available to expand to 3 year-olds by $20 million and $5.4 million in the 2nd year for additional flexible needs);
  • Expand public/private options for state-aligned preschool through the VECF mixed-delivery program (House budget reduces proposed increase by $6.7 million).
  • Direct $7 million per year to the United Way of Southwest Virginia from ARPA funds for a new child care initiative, Ready Southwest (Senate budget includes $3.5 million in ARPA)

Accommodate the increase in referrals to Part C Early Intervention Services

  • Provide a $2.9 million increase per year to the base allocation for Part C Services funded through DBHDS. (Senate Budget includes $2.9 million each year)


2021 Early Care and Education Policy Agenda

Read our full 2021 Early Care and Education Policy Agenda.

View our full 2021 Legislative Archive.

2019 Early Care and Education Legislative Agenda Video Overview

Early Childhood “Innovation” Symposium- June 6, 2016

View recording and slides from presentations covering Project Pathfinders, Southside Families, trauma-informed systems, Early Childhood Mental Health Initiative, Home Visiting Consortium and mixed-delivery preschool in practice.

Early Childhood Landscape and Unified Early Childhood Agenda 

Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2018
Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2017
Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2016
Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2015
Unified Early Childhood Agenda 2014

Policy Briefings

In 2011, Voices outlined opportunities to build on this framework in Building Our Future: The State of Virginia’s Early Childhood System. For highlights and a quick review of the report, please see the executive summary.

Read more about the Opportunity Gaps in Early Care and Education (December 2012).

For more information email Emily Griffey or call (804) 649-0184.