Sponsored by Representative Kagi, HB 1723 establishes a legislative task force on early learning, which will review funding sources and eligibility requirements associated with early learning, and develop recommendations to create an early learning program for children ages birth-to-five and their families. The bill also states that the Department of Early Learning will annually review rates for child care and early childhood education and assistance programs and recommend rates to the legislature based on market rates. Additionally, the legislature will appropriate funding for home visiting and parent and caregiver support, with 80% of the funds reserved for home visiting and the remaining 20% going to parent and caregiver support. The legislature will fund the expansion in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program and Working Connections Child Care. Funds will be distributed to phase in Early Start, an early learning program for children birth-to-five years of age, components of which include home visiting and parent education and support programs, the Early Achievers program (a voluntary quality rating and improvement system for child care providers), integrated full-day early learning programs, and high quality preschool for families at or below 130% of the federal poverty level. The Department of Early Learning will serve working parents with incomes at or below household incomes of 200% of the federal poverty line (amended from 175%), in addition to the groups previously listed in statute. Finally, the base rate for all child care providers will be increased by 5%.
Second Substitute: As amended, HB 1723 does the following: (1) Creates a legislative task force and technical working group to examine options for creating an accessible, integrated, high quality, and communitybased early learning program for children and their families. (2) Directs an expansion of the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program in fiscal year 2014. (3) Directs a 10 percent increase in Working Connections Child Care subsidies effective September 1, 2013, as well as a 5 percent increase for providers achieving level 2 of Early Achievers. (4) Declares that specified increases and expansions are null and void unless funded in the budget.
As amended by the ELK-12 Committee: The amendment removed the legislative task force on early learning and instead directs a technical working group convened by the Department of Early Learning to submit a report on early learning funding to the Legislature by December 31, 2013.
Ways and Means amendment:
- The technical working group tasked with examining federal and state early learning funding streams will be convened and staffed by the Legislature and will report to the early learning committees of the Legislature.
- Adds a waiver for schools administering the Washington Kindergarten inventory of developing skills (WaKids) to use up to three school days to meet with parents and families.
- Removes language requiring the Department of Early Learning to annually compare child care subsidy rates and staff compensation to market rates. Reviews are replaced with a mandate to use existing data to compare compensation levels for state funded programs to marketrates and to make recommendations to the Legislature regarding compensation models.
- Adds reporting requirements for DEL related to the Race to the Top grant.
- Specifies that a mixed-delivery system must include alternative models for delivery including licensed centers and licensed family child care providers.
- Strikes language regarding increasing subsidy rates and tiered subsidy rate enhancements for child care providers.
- Strikes language regarding directing revenues from Initiative 502 to early learning.
HB 1723 as amended by the Senate makes the following changes to the underlying version of the bill adopted by the Senate:
- Sets a statutory definition for the Early Start program and notes the components of that program. Leaves a statutory definition for the Early Achievers program unchanged.
- The Department of Early Learning is required to produce a biennial report with recommendations to the Legislature regarding Working Connections subsidy and state-funded preschool rates and compensation models that would attract and retain high quality early learning professionals. The amendment lists new factors DEL must consider when creating the report.
- A requirement that the Legislature fund the expansion of the Washington state preschool program in fiscal year 2014 is made subject to appropriated funding.
- Subject to appropriated funding, the base rate for all child care providers is increased by 10 percent on September 1, 2013.
- Subject to appropriated funding, various tiered subsidy rate enhancements are available to child care providers meeting certain requirements in the Early Achievers rating system.
- Subject to appropriated funding, Working Connections child care providers will receive a 5 percent increase in the subsidy rate for enrolling level 2 in the Early Achievers program and must maintain the increase.