SB 6127 addresses improving the quality of early care and education. The Early Achievers program (WA State’s quality rating and improvement system) is established as the framework for strengthening the quality for both early care and early education. Added to the objectives of the Early Achievers program are: Improving short-term and long-term outcomes for children as measured by assessments including, but not limited to, the WA Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills; and providing professional development opportunities to early care and education providers. The bill states that participants in the Early Achievers program are expected to actively engage in the program and continually advance from level one, or the foundation level, to level 5. The ratings for all child care programs, early childhood education and assistance programs, and head start programs will be published on the Department of Early Learning’s web site (or via a link) beginning July 1, 2015. A professional development pathway for Early Achievers participants to obtain a high school diploma or higher education credential in early childhood education and early childhood studies, child development, or an academic field related to early care and education is established.
Additionally, SB 6127 addresses the collection of student level data on all children attending a Working Connections Child Care program (WCCC) or an Early Childhood Education and Assistance program (ECEAP); establishes that authorizations for the Working Connections Child Care subsidy are effective for 12 months, regardless of specified changes in the parents’ or caregivers’ circumstances; requires that child care providers serving nonschool age children and receiving state subsidy payments enroll in the Early Achievers program and complete level 2 activities by July 1, 2017, and be rated at level 3 by July 1, 2019. Further, the bill states that effective July 1, 2015, a new child care provider serving nonschool age children and receiving state subsidy payments must enroll in the early achievers program within 30 days; complete the early achievers program quality level 2 activities within 12 months of receiving a subsidy; and rate as an early achievers program quality level 3 within 30 months from receiving a state subsidy.
SB 6127 also establishes contracted child care slots that will be awarded to child care programs, via a competitive process, meeting specified criteria; requires that the Department of Early Learning adopt rules pertaining to the ECEAP program regarding child absences and background checks for employees/volunteers.
The bill establishes that effective Jan 1, 2014(?), new ECEAP slots are only available to early achievers program participants rated at level 3, 4, or 5. Effective July 1, 2017, any provider administering an ECEAP program must institute a WCCC program and maintain an optional full workday program. Specific requirements are added for the phase in of ECEAP slots; a single set of licensing standards for WCCC and ECEAP must be developed; and integration with local government efforts related to early care and education is encouraged.
The legislation, if passed, may be known as the early start act.
Amended bill: A null and void clause is added for the entire act. Further, the bill states that the Early Achievers program must continue to integrate health in early learning and may achieve this integration by working with key health partners to develop training and is encouraged to plan for integration of health consultation in the coaching system.