Working to transform the child welfare system.

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:

As amended by the Early Learning and Human Services Committee: