BrightSpark priority issues:
- Family, Friends & Neighbors ($640,000): We requested $3.1 million to fully expand facilitated Play & Learn groups across the state. While we got a lot of support from legislators in the House and Senate, ultimately the full amount wasn’t funded. What we got is double the current amount of state funds for Play & Learn groups, though not enough to fully expand statewide. Nonetheless, a meaningful increase for FFN and we’ve created real momentum!
- Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation ($185,000): We were able to get the state to cover the three current consultant positions that were funded with an expiring federal grant! The legislature also invested an additional $260K to fund two consultant positions that would work specifically with tribal communities across Washington. These two positions would not be part of the CCA IECMH-C program.
- Working Connections reimbursement rates ($125.7 million total. $49.6M for centers and $45.35M for FCCs): In the Fair Starts for Kids Act that passes In 2021, the legislature committed to funding Working Connections rates at the 85th percentile. However, when they budgeted this they were using data from 2019. Because the cost of child care has increased so much since then, the money they were putting towards rates only got us to the 61st percentile. So now the state needs to put significantly more funding towards rates to make sure they are really reimbursing providers at the 85th percentile that was promised in the legislation.
Here’s how the legislature is planning to address that: Centers will receive a 16% rate increase on July 1, 2022. Family Child Care programs will also get an increase based on what their contract negotiated – it’s roughly the same amount of funds as centers just administered through a 3% general wage increase, increases to the evening, night and weekend pay, increases for specific job classifications, and a few other adjustments. The budget plans to increase the funding to the 85th percentile for everyone in the next budget cycle, meaning providers would see this increase around July 2023 providing next year’s legislature allocates the funding for this.
- Background checks: The credit card payment is waived, intending to reduce the wait time for processing background checks by 3-5 days. The legislature also funded the Office of Fiscal Management to set up a workgroup to develop a long term solution to the extended waits for background checks.
- Transitional Kindergarten: This one is interesting! The request from advocates was to require the WA State Institution of Public Policy (WSIPP) to conduct data collection on how TK programs are operating, their developmental appropriateness, how they collaborate with child care programs in their areas, etc. We were initially told this would not be included, but they ended up including the following at the last minute:
- Requiring OSPI to establish eligibility rules for TK
- Freeze expansion of transitional kindergarten (!!!)
- Require an evaluation and data collection by WSIPP
WSIPP is very opposed to this and have asked the Governor to veto all of the transitional kindergarten requires and restrictions. There is currently a campaign to try to encourage Gov. Inslee to not veto the TK language, or at the very least include the evaluation.
- Early learning facilities grants: $23M in new funding for competitive grants. They also put $18.5M in federal emergency funds towards one-time minor renovation grants that don’t require programs to be expanding their slots to get the funds (the intention is to ensure FCCs can be competitive for these funds).
Early learning legislation that passed:
- SB 5838: Additional funds to cover the cost of diapers for families on TANF with children under 5. Led by WestSide Baby.
- SB 5793: Allowing people with lived experience to be compensated for participating on state planning and oversight tables. This means providers and parents that are involved in commissions, boards, or other planning efforts with DCYF would be able to be compensated $200 per day as well as covering the cost of some expenses. The Office of Equity is required to develop guidelines for this and analyze data on whether agencies are doing a good job removing barriers to public participation in government processes.
- HB 1888: Making birth doulas Medicaid-reimbursable. This bill sets up voluntary certification process for birth doulas that would allow for Medicaid reimbursement. The legislation calls for a group of community partners dedicated to Black & Brown perinatal health to inform the competencies and embed culturally congruent practices. Led by the Doulas For All coalition.
- SB 5855: Allowing campaign funds to be used for related child care expenses. The intention behind this is to remove some of the barriers working parents (mothers in particular) face in running for office.
- HB 1890: Requires the creation of a comprehensive perinatal-25 behavioral health plan. The Children and Youth Behavioral Health Workgroup (we are a member) will convene an advisory group to develop this plan by Oct. 2024. This will be a good process for us to engage with as we expand our own mental health work and learn more about the needs for behavioral health supports in early learning.
Funding updates: When the legislature increased funding for early learning last year they did it by passing a Capital Gains Tax paid by the wealthiest individuals in the state, and also used the significant federal funds that had come through ARPA. Below are key updates on these funding sources.
- A lower court judge ruled against the Capital Gains tax: The capital gains tax that was passed last year and funds the Fair Starts for Kids Act was ruled unconstitutional by a lower court. Advocates for the capital gains tax are saying that this was expected – the opposition chose this court specifically because they thought it would be unfavorable to the capital gains tax. So all along we have known that this decision will take place in the state supreme court. There are a few things that will happen now – there will either be a decision at the supreme court, or at the ballot. It could be that supporters of capital gains introduce an initiative to support the tax or the opposition introduce an initiative to oppose it. The general message is that we were expecting this and the fight continues.
- President’s budget: President Biden is expected to release his proposed budget for the 2023 fiscal year next Monday or Tuesday. We’re waiting to see what child care investments from Build Back Better will make it through.
For more details, a great budget summary from Start Early can be found here. I will be hosting office hours in the coming weeks to chat with staff and answer any questions, so please stop by or feel free to reach out any time! Thank you all and be well.