Among a variety of policy and practice changes, SB 5452 expands the Early Achievers Program (WA State’s quality rating an improvement system) to all early learning and child care programs in Washington that serve non-school aged children and receive state subsidy. The Early Achievers Program provides a foundation of quality for the early care and education system. It requires program participants to meet specified quality standards implemented through the Department of Early Learning (DEL). SB 5452 requires the DEL to focus the early care and education system on supporting school readiness for young learners and improving educational outcomes in response to Early Achievers Program outcome data.
Additionally, SB 5452 requires the Dept. of Early Learning to address cultural and linguistic diversity when developing the professional development pathway; prioritizes the expansion of Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) in low-income neighborhoods; includes data reporting requirements; removes existing qualifying language regarding 12-month authorization for Working Connections Child Care (the State’s subsidized child care program; and develop a pathway for family home providers to administer an ECEAP Program. SB5452 lays out the process for awarding Working Connections Child Care vouchers and contracted slots; specifies dates by which providers must meet Early Achievers levels; requires that the Early Learning Advisory Council conduct a review of and make recommendations pertaining to Early Achievers; and more.
As amended by the Early Learning/K-12 Committee: SB 5452 as amended, does the following: Adds a provision that requires the Dept. of Early Learning to establish a process to accept national accreditation as a qualification for Early Achievers; Requires child care or learning programs that are operated by a federally recognized tribe and receiving state funds to participate in Early Achievers (with several caveats); States that 12-month authorization for Working Connections Child Care begin Jan. 1, 2016; Removes the provision that requires any provider administering an early childhood education and assistance program (ECEAP) maintain a full-day option effective July 1, 2018; and Removes language requiring DEL to implement an electronic time and attendance records system by July 1, 2016.
Finally, the amended bill states that the legislature understands that provider diversity in addition to parental choice are guiding principles for early learning programs.
Second SSB 5452 as amended by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means: (1) Private schools with early learning programs are subject only to state controls to assure health and safety and requirements for the transition to elementary school; (2) does not restrict or dictate specific educational programs for private school early learning programs. (3) the DEL is directed to streamline and eliminate duplication between EA standards and state child care licensing rules. (4) WCCC reporting requirements related to changes of circumstance are restored. (5) Restores the requirement that funding provided for ECEAP may only be used to continue or expand ECEAP and may not be used to supplant federal head start programs. (6) Removes the requirement that DEL create a pathway for family home providers to administer ECEAP and (7) the DEL must implement several reports, rulemaking, and protocols within existing funds.
Senate floor amendments: As amended by the Senate, ESSSB 4542 does the following:
- Moves language regarding private schools from the intent section to a codified section.
- States that participation in Early Achievers is voluntary for private schools with early learning programs not receiving state subsidy payments.
- Removes the requirement that Early Achievers participants continually advance from level 1, the basic licensing requirement, to level 5.
- Requires the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to develop a protocol for granting Early Achievers participants an extension in meeting rating level requirement timelines.
- Requires DEL to adopt rules that provide Working Connections Child Care authorizations up to ninety days, which do not need to be consecutive, when a recipient experiences a gap in his or her employment or approved activity. In order for the recipient to continue to be authorized for child care during the ninety days, the recipient must be looking for another job or have verbal or written assurance from the recipient’s employer or approved activity that the employment or approved activity will resume within the ninety days. The rules shall not apply to recipients of temporary assistance for needy families or WorkFirst.
- Removes a provision regarding Working Connections Child Care subsidy rate increases.
- States that notification to DSHS regarding certain significant changes may be in writing or verbal.
- Adds a new section that requires DEL, in collaboration with the Early Achievers Review Subcommittee, to complete an annual report addressing certain topics.
- Changes the definition of “full day program” to mean an early childhood education and assistance program that offers early learning activities a minimum of one thousand hours per year.
- Removes the definition for “low-income child care provider.”
- Adds that the Early Achievers Review Subcommittee of the Early Learning Advisory Council must review the Early Achievers Program’s rating tools, quality standard areas, and components and how they are applied.
- Makes technical changes.
As amended by the Early Learning and Human Services Committee:
- Striking Amendment: Retains the provisions of the underlying engrossed second substitute with the following changes:
- Moves the language on private schools to the section that addresses licensing standards.
- Clarifies that participation in the Early Achievers program is voluntary for: Licensed or certified child care centers and homes not receiving state subsidy payments; and early learning programs not receiving state funds.
- Requires the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to collaborate with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to jointly design a plan to incorporate school age child care providers into the Early Achievers program or other appropriate quality improvement system.
- Requires the DEL and the OSPI to jointly implement a pilot program for school age child care providers.
- Requires the DEL to accept nationally accredited programs with standards that meet or exceed the Early Achievers program standards as a qualification for the Early Achievers program ratings, and specifies that eligibility for the Early Achievers program is not subject to bargaining consistent with the Legislature’s reservation of rights under RCW 41.56.028(4)(d).
- Clarifies that nothing in section 2 of this bill is outside the Legislature’s authority to make programmatic modifications to licensed child care and early learning programs, consistent with the power reserved to modify the delivery of state services through child care subsidy programs, regardless of collective bargaining agreements.
- Allows but does not require the DEL to charge a fee for optional rerating requests made by Early Achievers program participants outside the established rating cycle.
- Makes it a requirement instead of an option that the DEL include opportunities for scholarships and grants in the professional development pathway established to assist Early Achievers program participants with the costs associated with obtaining an educational degree from voluntary to mandatory.
- Makes it a requirement instead of an option that the DEL address cultural and linguistic diversity when developing the professional development pathway.
- Makes it a requirement instead of an option that the Early Learning Advisory Council convene an Early Achievers Review Subcommittee (Subcommittee).
- Requires the DEL to consult with the Early Achievers Review Subcommittee (Subcommittee) on all substantial policy changes to the Early Achievers program.
- Restricts the requirements for child care programs that serve only school age children and are operated in buildings that contain public or private schools that safely serve children during times in which school is in session to not exceed the health and safety standards established by the State Board of Health for primary and secondary schools.
- Requires that amounts appropriated for the encouragement of culturally diverse and low-income center and family home child care provider participation be appropriated separately from the other funds that may be used for the protocol. Requires these funds to be considered an ongoing program for purposes of future departmental budget requests.
- Requires the DEL to prioritize resources during the first thirty months of implementation of the Early Achievers program to assist providers rating at a level 2 to reach a level 3 wherever access to subsidized care is at risk.
- Provides twelve-month authorizations for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy beginning January 1, 2016, and removes the requirement that participants report changes in circumstances.
- Extends the deadlines by one year for existing child care providers serving nonschool age children and receiving WCCC subsidy payments.
- Makes it a requirement instead of an option that the DEL implement tiered reimbursement for Early Achievers program participants in the WCCC program rating at a level 3 or higher.
- Requires the DEL to develop a pathway for licensed or certified child care centers and homes to administer an Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).
- Provides licensed or certified child care centers and homes that administer an ECEAP additional time to rate at a level 4 or 5 in the Early Achievers program.
- Requires the DEL to assure an even distribution of contracted slots for children birth to age five until August 1, 2017.
- Requires the DEL to review available research and best practice literature on cultural competency in early learning settings.
- Requires the review conducted by the Subcommittee be applied to the annual progress report conducted by the DEL in collaboration with the Subcommittee.
- Consolidates reporting requirements into the annual progress report regarding providers’ progress in the Early Achievers program. The annual progress report is conducted by the DEL in collaboration with the Subcommittee and submitted to the Governor and the Legislature.
- Adds a definition for “early childhood education and assistance program contractor” to mean an organization that provides ECEAP services under a signed contract with the DEL.
- Adds a definition for “early childhood education and assistance program provider” to mean an organization that provides site level, direct, and high quality ECEAP services under the direction of an ECEAP contractor. Modifies the definition of “extended day program” to mean an ECEAP that offers child care for at least ten hours per day, a minimum of two thousand hours per year, at least four days per week, year round.
- Modifies the definition of “full day program” to mean an ECEAP that offers child care for a minimum of one thousand hours per year.
- Creates a Joint Select Committee on the Early Achievers program to review and provide recommendations to the Legislature regarding the sufficiency of funding for the Early Achievers program.
- Delays the effective date for section 7 of the act to January 1, 2016, to align with the effective date of twelve-month authorizations for WCCC.
- Removes “subject to the availability of amounts appropriated for this specific purpose” throughout the bill.
- Additional Amendment from the ELHS Committee:
- Clarifies that for child care programs serving only school age children and operating in the same facilities used by public or private schools, the Director of the Department of Early Learning (DEL) must not impose additional health and safety licensing requirements related to the physical facility beyond the health and safety standards established by the State Board of Health for primary and secondary schools pursuant to its authority in RCW 43.20.050.
- Clarifies that for new child care providers receiving Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy the enrollment deadline for the Early Achievers program is within 30 days of receiving the initial subsidy payment.
- Clarifies that for new Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) providers the enrollment deadline for the Early Achievers program is within thirty days of the ECEAP contract start date.
- Changes references from extended day programming to extended day program.
- Delays the collection of longitudinal, student-level data on all children attending a WCCC program until the completion of an electronic time and attendance record system.
- Delays the Washington State Institute for Public Policy reporting deadlines by one year.
- Makes it voluntary that the DEL employ a combination of vouchers and contracted slots for the WCCC program.
- Specifies that the Early Achievers Review Subcommittee must include parents of children participating in a WCCC program and an ECEAP.
- Replaces the term “child care” with the term “early learning education” in the definition for “extended day program.”
- Replaces the term “child care” with the term “early learning education” in the definition for “full day program.”
- Replaces the term “child care” with the term “early learning education” in the definition for “part day program.”
- Defines “private school” to mean a private school approved by the state under chapter 28A.195 RCW.
- Modifies the definition for “nonschool age child” to mean a child who is six years or younger and who is not enrolled in a public or private school.
- Modifies the definition for “school age child” to mean a child who is between the ages of five years and twelve years and is attending a public or private school or is receiving home-based instruction under chapter 28A.200 RCW.
- Allows the members of the Joint Select Committee on the Early Achievers Program to appoint a designee to serve in their place.