State Legislative Update – June 1, 2011
At long last our state legislature has completed their session for 2011, and our legislators demonstrated their commitment to early learning even in the face of a huge budget deficit. . To close that $5 billion deficit, lawmakers made fairly significant cuts to higher education and human services. Students at higher education institutions will see double digit percentage increases in tuition, there will be fewer services for the developmentally disabled, homeless, and low income women and children and health care eligibility was further restricted. Despite all of this ECEAP will actually see a small increase in funding—all of it from federal child care dollars that just arrived in our state as part of the 2011 budget agreement. This increase means that ECEAP will likely see some expansion. The Department of Early Learning is in the process of figuring out how the small increase will equate to slots on the ground. This amazing feat was accomplished because of all your advocacy and grassroots support and the strong bipartisan strength holding up early learning within our state.
Child Care Funding
Another big victory this session was the preservation of the Working Connections Child Care program which many ECEAP and Head Start parents rely upon in order to receive full day care for their children. Initially the Governor proposed to restrict eligibility only to those families on TANF. Because of all your advocacy work and that of our partners the final budget maintains eligibility at 175% of the poverty level, while also keeping in place the wait list. According to the budget, DEL must also reconsider the current cap of 35,200 families if there are administrative savings in the TANF box. Additionally, prioritized access to WCCC will be given to families in which a parent of a child is a minor who is not living with a parent or guardian and who is a full time student in high school that has a school sponsored on-site child care.
Other Early Learning Programs
Home visiting advocates were also happy to learn that the budget includes a $1.868 million increase in state funds for home visiting. This amount meets federal Maintenance of Effort requirements to draw down $1.3 million additional federal dollars each year. This 1.868 million, along with $2.4 million of the $2.6 million federal funds our state will receive in the next two years, will go into the Home Visiting Services Account. These funds, with additional dollars contributed by Thrive by Five Washington, will bring the biennial total for the Home Visiting Services Account to approximately $6.4 million. The remaining $200,000 of the federal home visiting money will go to the Department of Early Learning for administration.
Other notables: the WaKIDS (Washington’s kindergarten readiness assessment pilot program) received $900,000 to continue their work and Resource and Referral core services were preserved. Unfortunately, funding for the Career and Wage Ladder was eliminated.
Child Care Plan
The state is the final stages of putting together the child care plan they need to submit to the federal government. Many members of our community testified and participated in the development of the plan. Click to view the draft document.