DCF Listening Sessions Update

Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families held the first of nine listening session in Milwaukee last Thursday, April 16th. These sessions are being held in an effort to collect feedback from child care providers, parents, and other early education stakeholders on future department initiatives. A WECA representative joined around 150 people at the first session and reported that many voices and opinions were heard. Some of the key points raised by parents, providers, and stakeholders included:

• Funds are needed to help providers through the accreditation process as it is too expensive for individuals and smaller sites. Funds were also requested for no cost training and technical assistance to help raise the quality of early childhood education and help providers reach higher levels on the rating scale.
• There was confusion over what the quality rating scale really means to providers.
• Speakers requested that CERTIFIED providers be included in the quality rating project. They expressed feelings of “discrimination” for not having this opportunity to improve their programs and selves.
• Providers expressed that licensing specialists should NOT be responsible for assessing programs/determining where on the quality rating scale a program will be. Objective evaluators should be used for these assessments.
• Providers from smaller programs were concerned about competing with larger programs with multiple sites and larger budgets for education, toys, and equipment. Having a larger budget allows these programs to make quality investments more easily, and therefore it is easier for larger programs to receive a higher ranking on the quality rating scale.

Future sessions will focus on a variety of topics including the creation of a Quality Rating & Improvement System, implementation of an automated attendance system, and efforts to address fraud in the Wisconsin Shares program.

The dates and locations of the remaining listening sessions are listed below. All sessions will be held from 7pm to 9pm.

Wednesday, April 22nd: Northcentral Technical College Auditorium, Center for Health Sciences, 1000 West Campus Drive, Wausau
Monday, April 27th: CESA 12, 618 Beaser Avenue, Ashland
Wednesday, April 29th: Madison Area Technical College
Downtown Education Center, Conference Room D240, 211 North Carroll Street, Madison
Monday, May 4th: Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Student Center, Room SC224, Lecture Hall, 2740 West Mason Street, Green Bay
Monday, May 11th: Waukesha County Technical College, Richard T. Anderson (RTA) Center, 800 Main Street, Pewaukee
Wednesday, May 13th: Chippewa Valley Technical College Business Education Center, Room 103, 620 West Clairemont Avenue, Eau Claire
Monday, May 18th: UW – Parkside, MOLN Molinaro Room 105, 900 Wood Road, Kenosha
Thursday, May 21st: UW-La Crosse, Room 337, 1725 State Street, La Crosse

If special accommodations are needed, please contact Courtney Sullivan at 608-266-1518 or CourtneyK.Sullivan@wisconsin.gov prior to the session.

Week of the Young Child

Week of the Young ChildThe 2009 Week of the Young Child begins this Sunday April 19th, and runs through Saturday April 25th. This annual celebration is a chance to focus on the lives of very young children (and those who care for them) while informing the public about the importance of early childhood programs and services. This year’s theme is “Bring Communities Together for Children— Children Bring Communities Together.” The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) sponsor’s the event and provides much more information on their website.

WECA and their local affiliate, the Dane County Association for the Education of Young Children, will be joining the Madison Children’s Museum on Tuesday, April 21st for their Week of the Young Child Open House. The event will take place from 6pm-8pm and will offer free workshops and resources to young children and their families. WECA staff member Peggy Haack will be hosting a workshop from 7:30pm-8pm entitled “Finding Our Voices as Advocates.” You can read more about the event here.

Activities are taking place all week across Wisconsin! For a list of events please visit our website.

Worthy Wage Day 2009

May 1st is recognized each year as National Early Educator Worthy Wage Day. On this day, early childhood professionals- and the organizations that support them- work together to inform the public about the importance of high quality early education. Despite the critical role they play in children’s lives, the early childhood workforce continues to be compensated poorly (the average professionals earns less than $20,000 per year). In response, Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Representative Todd Platts (R-PA), have proposed a resolution that “urges public officials and the general public to honor early childhood care and education staff and programs in their
communities and to work together to resolve the early childhood education staff compensation crisis.” You can read the full resolution (H. Con. Res. 99) here.

As the day is quickly approaching, you can voice your support for this resolution by calling your federal representatives. Visit www.legis.wisconsin.gov/waml and enter your home mailing address to find the phone numbers for your US Representative and US Senators.

DCF Listening Sessions Scheduled

Public Hearing Testimony
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families’ Division of Early Care and Education will be holding listening sessions across the state. Dan Harris, the division’s administrator, is interested in hearing from child care providers, parents, and other early education stakeholders on future department initiatives. The sessions will focus on a variety of topics including the creation of a Quality Rating & Improvement System, implementation of an automated attendance system, and future efforts to address fraud in the Wisconsin Shares program.

The dates and locations of the listening sessions are listed below. All sessions will be held from 7pm to 9pm.

Thursday, April 16th: Milwaukee Public Schools Administration Building
Auditorium, 5225 West Vliet Street, Milwaukee
Wednesday, April 22nd: Northcentral Technical College Auditorium, Center for Health Sciences, 1000 West Campus Drive, Wausau
Monday, April 27th: CESA 12, 618 Beaser Avenue, Ashland
Wednesday, April 29th: Madison Area Technical College
Downtown Education Center, Conference Room D240, 211 North Carroll Street, Madison
Monday, May 4th: Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Student Center, Room SC224, Lecture Hall, 2740 West Mason Street, Green Bay
Monday, May 11th: Waukesha County Technical College, Richard T. Anderson (RTA) Center, 800 Main Street, Pewaukee
Wednesday, May 13th: Chippewa Valley Technical College Business Education Center, Room 103, 620 West Clairemont Avenue, Eau Claire
Monday, May 18th: UW – Parkside, MOLN Molinaro Room 105, 900 Wood Road, Kenosha
Thursday, May 21st: UW-La Crosse, Room 337, 1725 State Street, La Crosse

If special accommodations are needed, please contact Courtney Sullivan at 608-266-1518 or CourtneyK.Sullivan@wisconsin.gov prior to the session.

Senate Committee Hearing: Children, Families, and the WI State Budget

The Joint Finance Committee held the last of its seven public hearings on the state budget last week. If you missed your chance to voice your opinion, another hearing was recently announced. The WI Senate’s Committee on Children and Families and Workforce Development will be holding a public hearing to discuss the sections in the budget related to child welfare, foster care, the W-2 program, childcare and child support. The committee is interested in learning about how these portions of the budget will potentially impact children and families in Wisconsin. The hearing will be held at the State Capitol on Wednesday April 15th at 10:00 am in room 201 Southeast. You can comment on the state budget by signing in support for adequate early education funding, giving a testimonial/speech, or providing written comments to the committee.

So what exactly is in the budget for the Department of Children and Families? Here are some key findings:

• The Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program will be funded at $375,736,400 per year in fiscal years 2010 and 2011
• Several cost containment measures are proposed to reduce spending in the Wisconsin Shares program. This includes increasing copayments for parents, freezing child care provider reimbursement rates, implementing a waiting list for recipients, including child support payments when determining income eligibility for the program, and distributing reimbursements to providers based on attendance
• In reaction to fraudulent behavior in the Wisconsin Shares program, the Governor has proposed several initiatives including using an electronic swipe card system to monitor attendance and the creation of a 5 person integrity unit to monitor/investigate fraud
• $1,018,400 in fiscal year 2010 and $1,727,300 in fiscal year 2011 will be allocated to establish a Quality Rating System
• At least $3,457,000 will be provided annually for the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® WISCONSIN scholarship program and the R.E.W.A.R.D.™ WISCONSIN stipend program (neither an increase nor a decrease in funding from the 2007-2009 budget)
• There is an increase in licensing fees from $10.33 per child to $16.94 per child (for group centers that provide care for nine or more children). All other licensing fees remain the same

To view the complete summary of the Department of Children and Families 2009-2011 budget click here.

Speak Up, Call In

The Wisconsin Early Learning Coalition, of which WECA is a founding member, is asking the Wisconsin Legislature to invest an additional $3 million (at a minimum) to help child care programs improve and meet the standards that will be established in a quality rating system. The Coalition believes that $2 million of that amount is available from federal stimulus funds already set aside for quality improvement in the Child Care and Development Block Grant. This additional funding should go for enhanced technical assistance, scholarships and wage supplements through the T.E.A.C.H. and R.E.W.A.R.D. programs, and grants or higher payments to programs meeting quality standards.

WECA needs you to help us inform legislators about the specific need to increase funding for the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® WISCONSIN scholarship program and the R.E.W.A.R.D.™ WISCONSIN stipend program at levels that will sustain them both. These programs are important as they produce a well educated and fairly compensated child care workforce- an integral part of high-quality care. Currently, there are already close to 1,000 R.E.W.A.R.D. recipients on a waiting list to receive their stipends and the demand for T.E.A.C.H. scholarships is anticipated to surpass program funding as we near the fall 2009 semester.

WECA is organizing a CALL-IN DAY on TUESDAY, MARCH 31 from 9 AM – 3 PM. Please call your legislators! Visit www.legis.wisconsin.gov/waml and enter your home mailing address to find the phone numbers for your state senator and representative. Also, call the chairs of the Joint Finance Committee. They’re in charge of the budget process and need to hear from you too: Representative Mark Pocan (608) 266-8570 and Senator Mark Miller (608) 266-9170.

Here is an example of what you can say: “My name is (your name) and I live in (city), Wisconsin. I am a child care provider / teacher / director at (name of program). I am (or will be) on the waiting list for the R.E.W.A.R.D. Stipend Program. Or, I am a T.E.A.C.H. recipient/sponsor. Quality child care depends on retaining a well educated, fairly compensated workforce. R.E.W.A.R.D./T.E.A.C.H. is crucial to making that a reality. Increase funding to this/these program(s)!”

And that’s it! If your legislator or their staff person asks questions, tell them to call the R.E.W.A.R.D.™ WISCONSIN Stipend Program at 608-240-9880, extension 7239 or the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® WISCONSIN scholarship program at 608-240-9880, extension 7229 for more information. We’ll be happy to give them all the details!

Hearings, Hearings Everywhere

Governor Doyle has proposed his state budget and it is now being reviewed by the Joint Finance Committee. In order to make sure that all of Wisconsin’s young children get a “Great Start,” we need YOU to help us send a message to the Joint Finance members letting them know how important high-quality early childhood education is.

The committee will be holding public hearings in 7 areas across the state. If you live in or near one of these sites, please consider attending. You can comment on the state budget by signing in support for adequate early education funding, giving a 3 minute (or less) testimonial/speech, or providing written comments to the committee. For those willing to speak, there will be a WECA staff person at each event to provide support. Also, if you’re planning to speak or provide written comments, we can send you some information to include and some general information about the hearings themselves.

Here are the hearing dates and locations. All are held from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, with the exception of March 28 in Ashland:

• Monday, March 23: Sparta. American Legion Hall, 1116 Angelo Road.
• Wed, March 25: West Allis. State Fair Park, Banquet Rm 2, 640 S 84th St.
• Fri, March 27: Eau Claire. UW-Eau Claire Haas Fine Arts Center, 121 Water St.
• Saturday, March 28: Ashland. Ashland High School Auditorium at 9:00.
• Monday, March 30. Racine. Case High School Theater. 7345 Washington Ave.
• Wed, April 1. Appleton. Lawrence University Stansbury Theater, Music Drama Center 420 E College Ave.
• Fri, April 3. Cambridge. Amundson Community Center, 200 Spring St.