Congress recently acted with uncharacteristic speed to undo the cuts to air traffic controllers implemented as part of the “sequester” (the across-the-board federal budget cuts), before flying home to their districts for a weeklong break. While making sure that the cuts did not cause them delays at the airport, they ignored the cuts that are affecting vulnerable women and children across the country. These include cuts to a range of crucial supports for families such as child care assistance and Head Start.
The National’s Women’s Law Center’s new fact sheet describes the importance of child care assistance in helping parents afford the care they need to work and support their families, and ensure their children are in safe, reliable care that fosters their learning and growth. Congress should be investing more in child care assistance, not chipping away at the help there is through arbitrary budget cuts. Read more »
Arlington, Virginia has turned back a proposal to eliminate the county’s important child care health and safety standards, thanks to strong advocacy efforts and recognition by County Board members of the importance of protecting our youngest children. The county manager, as part of an effort to address a budget shortfall, had proposed to save $250,000 by eliminating the local Office of Child Care Licensing. But letters and phone calls from the public and research from early childhood experts convinced the County Board that the short-term savings were far outweighed by the benefits of safeguarding children’s well-being.
Arlington County’s child care standards are crucial for ensuring the health and safety of children because Virginia does not set adequate standards of its own. For example, Virginia does not regulate providers caring for fewer than six unrelated children, while Arlington regulates any providers caring for more than three children. Read more »
A number of governors called for significant new investments in early care and education to expand access to high-quality early learning opportunities. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he wanted to "ensure that every child in Massachusetts has access to high-quality early education." Read more »
This morning I visited a Head Start classroom with NWLC’s Director of Child Care and Early Learning, Helen Blank, and two recognizable guests.
Helen was part of a select group of early childhood advocates invited to join Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as they visited the Judy Center at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park, Maryland. Judy Centers are located in or affiliated with elementary school across Maryland and provide a comprehensive set of services for at-risk children birth through age five and their families.
Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius treated the children to a great rendition of “Green Eggs and Ham” and I got to play press photographer. The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy their new storytellers though they were a bit skeptical when Secretary Sebelius tried to use the story to encourage them to try new foods.
“Have you ever tried a food you thought you wouldn’t like and then you liked it?” she asked.
“No,” a little boy responded matter-of-factly. Read more »
Yesterday, as President Obama visited an early learning center in Decatur, Georgia, the White House released a fact sheet with more details about the early education proposal the President announced in his State of the Union address. Under the President’s comprehensive plan, the federal government and states would work together to increase access high-quality early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five through expansion of voluntary home visiting programs, prekindergarten, Early Head Start, child care, and full-day kindergarten.
The President proposes to provide funding to states to help them make prekindergarten available to all four-year-olds in families with incomes below 200 percent of poverty ($39,060 a year for a family of three). The federal government would offer incentives for states to provide prekindergarten to middle-income families as well. Prekindergarten programs would have to meet a set of quality standards, including having qualified teachers paid comparably to K-12 teachers, small class sizes and low child-teacher ratios, and comprehensive health and other support services. The programs could be provided in a range of settings, from schools to child care centers to other community-based programs, as is currently the case for many state-funded prekindergarten programs. Read more »
“So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.”
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the President called for making prekindergarten available to all children through a federal-state partnership. He made a compelling case for this investment in early education, noting the benefits for children, parents, and our nation’s economy. He explained how early education could help children succeed in school and in life. He talked about the importance of helping parents struggling with the high costs of preschool. And he discussed his proposal as a key part of building the strong workforce we need for our future economic prosperity.
The President demonstrated his commitment to early education not only by mentioning it in his State of the Union address, but also by inviting Susan Bumgarner, an early childhood educator from Oklahoma—a state that makes prekindergarten available to all four-year-olds—to be a guest of the First Lady during the address. Susan Bumgarner is one of the many early education teachers (most of whom are women) across our country who are helping our children grow and learn so they are ready for school.
We are excited about this proposal and about working to make it a reality for children and families. We look forward to hearing more details, as there are many questions about exactly what form it will take and how it will work. For example: What role will states play in making prekindergarten available? Read more »
Minnesota and Missouri have joined Massachusetts in proposing new state investments in early childhood education and care. However, just as we were cheering those states, Kentucky announced damaging cuts to its child care assistance program, reminding us yet again that these programs and the low-income women and children they support are in a fragile position.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has proposed to provide $20 million over the 2014-2015 biennium to increase rates for child care providers serving families receiving child care assistance. He has also proposed (PDF) to provide $44 million to expand scholarships to enable low-income families to purchase high-quality early care and education for their children. Read more »
Hats off to Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, who announced an impressive plan to invest in strengthening the state’s education system, including not only the K-12 and higher education systems, but early education as well. The Governor recommends that $350 million be targeted over four years to expand and improve the state’s early education and care system. This investment would eliminate the state’s waiting list of nearly 30,000 children who need but cannot currently access child care assistance, expand the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to help early educators and providers offer higher-quality experiences to children and families, increase educational programs and supports for parents and family members, and strengthen efforts to provide comprehensive support to children and families. In addition, new school finance funding would be used to incentivize school districts to offer prekindergarten for four-year-olds.
In order to raise the revenue necessary to support these fundamental education initiatives, Governor Patrick, in his state of the state address, proposed to increase the state income tax by one percent, to 6.25 percent. He also proposed to double personal exemptions and eliminate certain itemized deductions in an attempt to distribute the burden of the tax increase based on ability to pay. Read more »
Earlier this year, over 800 West Virginia families with 1,400 children were told they would lose their child care assistance due to changes in the state's eligibility requirements as of January 2013. But this week, those families received a reprieve when Governor Tomblin, recognizing how important child care is to helping families, announced he would be tabling the changes for further review.
West Virginia's income eligibility limit for a family to initially qualify for child care assistance is 150 percent of poverty ($28,635 a year for a family of three), but families already receiving assistance can continue to receive it with incomes up to 185 percent of poverty ($35,317 a year for a family of three). Under the proposed changes, families would have lost assistance as soon as their income reached 150 percent of poverty. Families would have had to find a way to cover the entire cost of care on their own just as they were starting to make progress in their financial situation, but when they were still far from being financially secure.
A report from the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy issued in November helped make the case against the proposed cuts by highlighting the effects the cuts would have on children, families, and the economy. The report called for the state to step up and invest its own resources following the expiration of the additional federal child care funds that had been provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Read more »
The National Women's Law Center's annual report on state child care assistance policies, Downward Slide: State Child Care Assistance Policies Report 2012, examined policies that are critical in determining families' access to child care assistance and the extent of help they receive from that assistance — income eligibility limits, waiting lists, parents copayments, provider reimbursement rates, and eligibility for parents searching for a job. The report found that families in 27 states were worse off in February 2012 than in February 2011 under one or more of these child care assistance policies, and families in 17 states were better off under one or more of these policies. Yet this tells only part of the story. Many other policies affect whether families can get help affording high-quality child care. These policies are particularly important to highlight since a number of states have recently made changes to them — some positive, some negative. The Center's new fact sheet, On the Edges: Child Care Assistance Policies that Affect Parents, Providers, and Children, describes some of these policies and provides a few examples of recent state policy changes.
Some states have adopted changes to their eligibility policies that make it more difficult for families to receive child care assistance. For example, Kansas began requiring that most adults receiving child care assistance be employed a minimum of 20 hours per week (unless they meet criteria for exemption). Nevada no longer provides child care assistance for parents in education or training programs (except for minor parents working toward their high school diploma or GED). These policy changes can create barriers for parents who are just starting a job and only have limited hours or parents who are trying to get the education they need for better-paying, more stable employment — parents who are trying to gain more secure financial footing, but who can only do that if they have child care that allows them to work. Read more »