Early Education Fares Well in the 2011 Federal Budget

The original House version of the Federal 2011 budget would have cut $1 billion, or 15%, of the national Head Start budget, and would have cut the child care budget by $39 million. Fortunately, early care and education got a significant victory in the final compromise package worked out by the House, Senate and President Obama.

In this final budget version, Head Start got an increase of $340 million more than the 2010 budget, enough to maintain the children currently enrolled, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant got a $100 million increase! For Wisconsin, The 2011 budget package will provide an estimated $4.3 million for Head Start, and $1.3 million for child care– more than the 2010 budget level.

In tough financial times, it is crucial to invest in programs that bring back positive social and economic returns to society, saving money in the long-term. Investments in early education programs will do just that (see a recent analysis by Child Trends, an independent, nonpartisan research center) and we are happy that the federal governments has recognized this during the current budget process. We are hopeful that investments in early education programs will continue, despite difficult decisions that will need to be made for future federal budgets.

Attend a Town Hall Meeting with Congressman Paul Ryan

Recently, the House approved a Budget Resolution, that would radically alter major programs for low-income families and create an approach to deficit reduction that would severely constrict services for at-risk children. Following that, discussions on long-term deficit reduction plans are heating up in Washington. Most proposals look at broad changes and don’t touch on programs like Early Head Start, child care, and others that help provide a healthy future for young children. This could mean a lot less funding for these programs down the road.

Attend a Town Hall Meeting with Congressman Paul Ryan!

As a Wisconsin resident, these town hall meeting are a prime opportunity to educate your Congressman on the importance of the earliest years in a child’s life. Take action by attending a Town Hall event with Congressman Paul Ryan (WI-01) in your area and ask a question!

Meeting details:
Town Hall meetings with Congressman Paul Ryan (WI-01)
Tuesday, April 26:
• 9:30am at City Hall, 626 Geneva St, Lake Geneva, WI
• 11:00am at Village Hall, 108 East Main St, Twin Lakes, WI
• 1:30pm at Village Hall, 6969 236th Avenue, Paddock Lake, WI
• 3:00pm at Gateway Technical College, Madrigrano Auditorium, 3520 30th Avenue, Kenosha, WI

Thursday, April 28th:
• 9:45 am at Village Hall, 123 North River St, Waterford, WI
• 11:15am at Franklin High School, Gymnasium, 8222 South 51st St, Franklin, WI *Attendees should park in LOWER/STUDENT LOT
• 1:30pm at Oak Creek Police Department, 301 West Ryan Road, Oak Creek, WI
• 3:00pm at Whitnall High School, Auditorium, 5000 South 116th Street, Greenfield, WI

Friday, April 29th:
• 10:30am,at Veterans Terrace (Liberty Hall), 589 Milwaukee Avenue, Burlington, WI
• 1:00pm, at Community State Bank, 1500 Main St, Union Grove, WI
• 2:15pm, at Village Hall, 2801 89th St, Sturtevant, WI
• 3:45pm, at Caesar Chavez Communtiy Center Gymnasium, 2221 Douglas Ave, Racine, WI

Sample Question to ask:

“Your budget would require deep cuts to programs that help very vulnerable young children beat the odds, get ready for school, and be productive workers. Because around half of all young children in America live in low-income families, these cuts would have a huge, negative impact. Under your budget, they won’t be able to share in the prosperity you talk about. And what’s more, our country won’t be able to achieve future prosperity without them. What will you do to make sure at-risk children have access to greater opportunities NOW so that we don’t all lose out in the long run?”

What’s in the Governor’s 2011-13 Proposed State Budget?

Viewing Governor Walker’s state budget can be an overwhelming and confusing experience. It can be difficult to figure out where (and how much) money is being spent and what regulations are being changed. This is where the Department of Administration steps in. The DOA has posted a readable, understandable version of the budget that summarizes key information for each state department. This summary is now available online to view here.

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

YoungStar: $7,602,100 in fiscal year 2012 and $7,284,800 in fiscal year 2013 is proposed for continued funding of YoungStar, Wisconsin’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. Additional funding is proposed for the administration of YoungStar ($725,100 in year one, and $719,400 in year two).
YoungStar tiered reimbursements: The initial design for YoungStar, approved by the Joint Finance Committee in 2010, included proposed fiscal incentives to programs that met higher quality standards. The Governor’s budget includes a tiered reimbursement system, but it is proposed in a different way. Note the differences below:

• The Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program is proposed to be funded at $290 million in fiscal year 2012 and $288 million in fiscal year 2013. The 2012 proposed funding is a $112 million reduction from the current fiscal year (which was budgeted at $402 million), although the Legislative Fiscal Bureau now estimates that the actual cost of the program for this year will be closer to $296 million.
• Several cost containment measures are authorized to occur (if needed) to contain costs in the Wisconsin Shares program. These includes increasing copayments for parents, tightening eligibility, implementing a waiting list for recipients, and adjusting payment rates to child care providers.
• $3,975,000 is proposed annually for the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Wisconsin scholarship program and the R.E.W.A.R.D.™ Wisconsin stipend program (a $500,000 annual increase in funding from the 2009-2011 budget)
Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies: $1,298,600 per year is budgeted for these agencies. This is neither an increase nor decrease from the previous budget.

To view the complete summary of the Department of Children and Families 2011-2013 budget click here. Keep checking our blog to find out what happens as the budget process moves forward, and how to voice your opinion on what has been proposed by the Governor.

Call-in for kids: November 15, 2010

Congress is back in Washington on Monday, November 15 and has limited time to do some important work: ensure that funding is not cut for child care and Head Start before the end of the year.

Without sufficient funding, as many as to 300,000 children could be dropped from child care and Head Start. Your support could ensure that these children continue to receive care. Also, encourage Congress to create the Early Learning Challenge Fund to encourage states to do even better for young children and families.

Congress is considering appropriations bills that could go backwards in spending for child care and Head Start, and would lose the Early Learning Challenge Fund. Help us tell Congress to move forward and adequately fund the Child Care and Development Block Grant, Head Start, and the Early Learning Challenge Fund.

What can you do?
Call Congress on Monday, November 15!
• Call 1-888-460-0813
• The first person to answer the phone will be an operator who will ask how you want to be connected. Tell the operator the name of your Member of Congress. (Not sure? Look it up here or use http://action.nwlc.org/find_your_elected_officials)
• Once you are connected to the office of your Member of Congress, a staff person will answer the phone. Tell the staff person:
• My name is (name) and I am calling from (city, state). I am a constituent and a (your role: parent, family child care provider, early education advocate, etc.).
• Please make sure that continued funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start is NOT REDUCED in the appropriations bill and that the Early Learning Challenge Fund is included. Funding cuts could drop as many as 300,000 children from child care and Head Start, and the Early Learning Challenge Fund can help states improve the quality of care offered.
• We are counting on you here in Wisconsin. Thank you.

Vote TODAY in Wisconsin’s Primary Election

Make sure to vote today in Wisconsin’s Fall Partisan Primary Election. The federal and state officials that are elected in November will impact early education funding levels and programs. The laws that they create or oppose will directly impact the work of early education professionals across the state. Make sure to find a candidate that shares your view on early education policy and VOTE TODAY in the primary election.

Visit the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin website to find your polling place. This site also has a lot of information on the election including a complete list of candidates, a voter guide, and more. The Government Accountability Board website is also a great place to go for voting and election resources. Polls are open until 8pm.

Early Education is Prioritized in Federal Spending

2011 Early Education Spending Increases Suggested
On July 15th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education approved a fiscal 2011 spending bill that would increase federal early education spending. The spending bill includes:

• An increase of $700 million for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (total appropriation of approximately $2.827 billion). This suggested increase is the largest increase since 2000 and will help states maintain some investments made with ARRA funds. States use CCDBG dollars to improve access, affordability, and quality within child care.

• An increase of $866 million for Head Start funding (a total appropriation of $8.1 billion). This increase will help ensure that crucial Head Start classrooms added with ARRA funding remain open.

• An increase of $5.5 billion in discretionary funding for Pell Grants (total of $23.162 billion). This funding will ensure that more early childhood professionals- as well as other individuals- will be able to afford to attend college.

Next, this plan will travel to the full Appropriations Committee and the full House of Representatives to be considered.

Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Improvements
On June 15th, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act (H.R. 5504) with a bipartisan vote of 32-13. The bill strengthens CACFP programs by providing funding for five state pilot programs to provide an additional meal or snack, reducing paperwork and simplifying program requirements, increasing support for CACFP sponsors as they enroll child care providers, and enhancing the nutritional quality of food served in early childhood settings.

YoungStar Officially Passes in Wisconsin!

Yesterday, June 23, the bi-partisan Joint Committee on Finance unanimously passed YoungStar, Wisconsin’s child care quality rating and improvement system. The committee approved full funding- $10 million- for the launching of the program. $5.6 million has been immediately provided to DCF and the additional $4.4 million has been set aside for DCF to request later. Full funding for YoungStar means more training and technical assistance for providers, more funding for scholarship and wage stipends for providers, an online system of ratings for parents to access, and quality improvements in child care especially for low-income children and families.

The committee approved the following measures (link to the complete document here):

*$3,000,000 for assessment and data collection. Programs would be assessed and information collected through regional organizations- who would be chosen beginning in October 2010. These organizations are required to collect data on the four sections of YoungStar- staff qualifications, learning environment and curriculum, professional practices, and health and wellness program aspects- as well as data on provider life experience and continuing education, participation of children with disabilities, and what providers believe they need in order to improve their programs.
*$500,000 in additional funding immediately for the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Wisconsin scholarship program and the R.E.W.A.R.D.™ Wisconsin stipend program for the 2010-2011 year.
*$1,500,000 in additional funding for training and technical assistance activities in 12 counties throughout the state.
*$616,900 for 3 full time positions and administrative costs to DCF to oversee and implement the program.
*$4,429,900 for micro-grants, additional training and technical assistance, and other costs. This pot of money would be allocated after DCF completes a 5-year plan- due November 2010- for YoungStar that must be approved by the Joint Committee on Finance.
*DCF must list all accredited providers on their website beginning July 1, 2010.

WECA is committed to providing accurate information and assistance on YoungStar to all early childhood professionals across the state. Please visit our resource page here or check out our webinars that describe each of the YoungStar sections here. These resources were created to help programs decide what they can do now to prepare for YoungStar ratings.

As the process unfolds, continue to follow WECA as we update you on trainings, assessment information, and any legislative changes. Training for programs going through YoungStar will be announced in our Professional Development eNews, so make sure you’re subscribed here.

Joint Finance Committee to Discuss YoungStar: URGENT Action Needed

Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee has set the date to discuss and decide the fate of the proposed Quality Rating and Improvement System for child care providers, YoungStar. This meeting is NOT a public hearing– the public can attend to listen only. The meeting is set for: Wednesday, June 23 at 10 am.

The Department of Children and Families continues to respond to child care provider concerns with updates and improvements to the system. YoungStar is now stronger because of YOUR feedback- and it will continue to evolve in response to ideas from the field. Visit our website for more information, resources, and webinars on the program.

We need your help! Please contact your state Representative, Senator, and the two Joint Finance Co-Chairs- Senator Mark Miller and Representative Mark PocanTODAY.

Quality child care matters. Help us send a message by telling legislators:
• to support YoungStar, the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for child care, and
• to urge Joint Finance Committee members to vote for Alternative 1 (full funding and a phase-in approach) from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s May 24, 2010 paper on the section 13.10 request by the Department of Children and Families to fund their YoungStar plan.

Find out who your representatives are, and how to contact them, by clicking here and entering your mailing address. You can also call the Legislative hotline toll free at 1-800-362-9472.

Please join us for a final push in support of YoungStar and quality care for kids! The quality of care children receive has a huge and proven impact on their development and school-readiness. YOU can take a stand for quality by contacting your legislators and members of the Joint Finance Committee.

Receive Licensing Updates as they Occur!

This past year has brought several legislative changes impacting child care providers in a variety of ways. In August 2009, the Jalen Knox-Perkins day care van alarm bill went into effect. This law mandates that a child safety alarm be placed in the rear of certain child care vehicles (see our previous blog post here). Act 76, or the caregiver background check law, went into effect February 1, 2010 across the state. The act 1) requires much more frequent criminal background checks for child care providers, 2) bans individuals convicted of certain crimes from holding a child care license, working in a child care facility, or living in a family child care home, and 3) requires the Department of Children and Families to suspend a provider’s license if they are charged with a serious crime and revoke the license if the provider is convicted of the crime (see our previous blog post here). In response to these laws, the Department of Children and Families will be releasing a newly revised set of rules for all child care providers in June.

To receive immediate, electronic notice when this newly revised regulation summary is released, and to receive notices about any future changes that affect the child care field, sign up here to join the Bureau of Early Care Regulation’s email list. Select “regulation and licensing memos” to receive emails notifying you to visit the Department of Children and Families website each time a new memo describing regulation and licensing changes is published (see previously released memos here). Providers will continue to receive paper copies of these memos each time there is a change, but the department is encouraging interested parties to sign-up for emails in case these memos are only distributed electronically in the future.

A New Bill Provides Assistance for Early Ed Degree Repayment

Many child care providers struggle with low wages and few are able to afford the high cost of earning a degree. A new bill, AB 847, was recently introduced that would provide higher education loan repayment assistance for child care providers who received a degree in ECE on or after May 1, 2009. The bill was introduced by Representative Black and has been referred to the Assembly Committee on Children and Families. If passed, the bill would allow child care providers who have worked in the field for at least one year to be reimbursed for 10% of their outstanding student loan principal amount or $1000 (whichever is less). Providers who remain in the field would be eligible to receive additional reimbursements every year- up to five years. Read the full text of the bill here.

This bill, along with the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Wisconsin scholarship program, would help child care professionals tremendously with the overwhelming cost of earning a degree. Making higher education more affordable is important because providers who have completed ECE specific higher education are linked with better outcomes for young children in care. To support this bill, contact your legislator (find out who represents you here) or Representative Tamara Grigsby, the chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families.