Working to transform the child welfare system.

As amended: SHB 2377 adds definitions for school-age child and non-school age child in statute. The substitute bill requires the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to electronically publish the Early Achievers program ratings for early care and education programs and take into account the linguistic needs of parents and caregivers when publishing these ratings. It also directs the DEL to create a culturally and linguistically reflective professional development pathway for child care and early learning providers, provides that the DEL is required to implement a tiered reimbursement for the Early Achievers participants rated at a level three, four, or five, and Directs the DEL to design a plan to incorporate school-age child care providers into the Early Achievers program.

In addition, SHB 2377 specifies that the Early Achievers program quality improvement awards are reserved for participants offering programs that are comprised of at least 5 percent of children receiving subsidy, outlines Early Achievers participation and rating goal requirements for certain child care and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) provider and requires the DEL to collect specific data pertaining to the Working Education Data Center, the Washington State Institute of Public Policy (WSIPP), and child care and early learning providers. SHB 2377 also instructs the WSIPP to complete analyses examining quality levels and child outcomes and a cost-benefit analysis, specifies that a child is eligible for the WCCC program for a 12-month enrollment period, removes a parent’s or a caregiver’s obligation to report changes in regard to the WCCC to the Department of Social and Health Service, specifies that the WCCC cap is established in the operating budget and requires the DEL to develop an absence and de-enrollment policy for WCCC and ECEAP.

The substitute bill directs the DEL to contract at least 20 percent of the WCCC slots by a certain date and prioritize certain programs, aligns fingerprint processes for the WCCC program and the ECEAP, directs the DEL to prioritize certain programs and mandate certain requirements when implementing the preschool program, outlines licensing requirements for certain Family, Friend, and Neighbor child care providers, instructs the DEL to implement a single set of licensing requirements by July 1, 2017 and specifies that local government may contribute funds to the DEL.

Lastly, SHB 2377 creates the Early Start Account and provides that any funds contributed by local government are deposited into the Early Start Account and adds a null and void clause for the entire act.

House Floor Amendments:  

The intent of the bill was clarified to read:

The legislature finds that quality early care and education builds the foundation for a child’s success in school and in life. The legislature acknowledges that quality is a necessary underpinning of the early care and education system in Washington. The legislature recognizes that empirical evidence supports the conclusion that high quality programs consistently yield more positive outcomes for children, with the strongest positive impacts on the most vulnerable children. The legislature further understands that the proper dosage, duration of programming, and stability of care are critical to enhancing program quality and improving child outcomes. The legislature acknowledges that the early care and education system must be culturally responsive and meet the needs of Washington’s diverse populations. The legislature intends to prioritize the integration of child care and preschool in an effort to promote full workday programming. The legislature further intends to reward quality and create incentives for providers to participate in a quality rating and improvement system that will also provide valuable information to parents regarding the quality of care available in their communities.

 Additionally, the date that new Early Childhood Education and Assistance program slots are available to only Early Achievers participants at levels 3, 4, and 5 was changed to January 1, 2015, instead of January 1, 2014.  Further, the bill now specifies that the annual implementation report is specific to preschool and the Working Connections Child Care program, directs the Department of Early Learning to provide Early Achievers program participants an update on their progress toward completing level 2 activities at a certain time, and directs the Department of Early Learning to develop a protocol or granting Early Achievers program participants an extension in meeting certain required timelines for certain unexpected life circumstances.