3 Early Learning Policies in 2018

While we were unsuccessful in making moving major policy changes we are seeing some modest, but positive changes we wanted to alert you about:

  1.  Student Parents. This session we also spent considerable time trying to remove the work requirements and lift the education limitations for full time college students needing working connections child care subsidies.  Right now in our state if you are getting a childcare subsidy while going to school you also must work a minimum of 20 hours a week, the most in the country.  Only two other states are as strict!  Trying to successfully go to school full time and be a good parent is almost impossible if you also have to work that much.
    After multiple attempts and incredible work by our champions in the House and Senate and at the Department of Early Learning, neither of our bills made it very far with budget costs doing us in. However, at the last minute we were able to insert a much more modest proposal that would impact only Head Start and ECEAP parents in the House budget. We believe that this will be impactful but not have any costs associated (or very minimal costs) with it. It would eliminate the work requirement for Head Start and ECEAP parents using Working Connections childcare subsidy and wanting to attend school full time. We are hopeful this very modest proposal will survive the budget process so we can assist more of our parents in getting out of poverty by going back to school.
  2. Child Care Rates. Unfortunately, not much happened in the way of childcare center rates this session. But there was a little bit of good news! With the federal government likely providing a sizeable investment in new childcare funds a budget proviso was included in the House budget directing these dollars to be used for child care rates.
  3. ECEAP Eligibility.  As described in the newsletter article, this session we worked to lay the groundwork to expand access to ECEAP.  Based on the latest WA Kids Data and research we know that there are too many children falling in the cracks and coming to kindergarten unprepared—almost 25,000 of Washington’s low income children each year. Many of these children do not qualify for ECEAP as they live in families that make slightly more than the current income cutoff for the program. Often these are children in the child welfare system, are homeless, involved in CPS, or who have multiple risk factors that will make school success difficult. We had two bills to address this issue in different ways. One bill sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) would have increased ECEAP’s income eligibility from 110% of the poverty level to 185% of the poverty level and provided the funding needed to make sure all these children were served. That bill made it out of the House policy committee but because of cost did not make any further. We hope to make more progress in this area next session. Another bill authored by Senator Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) increases the statewide percentage of over income children ECEAP contractors can serve from the current 10% to 25%, and this bill is on its way to the Governor.

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