It’s hard to start a blog post on anything regarding the state budget without saying, “It could have been worse.” We all got our expectations lowered enough that a “win” was any cut that wasn’t as bad as expected. With budget news going from bad to worse, our early learning priorities shifted to protecting what we had. On that front we won some and we lost some. Here’s how it broke out by session’s end.
NOT AS BAD AS IT COULD HAVE BEEN
- Protecting home visiting programs was the Children’s Alliance’s priority in early learning this year. We hoped to maintain $3.5 million for evidence-based home visiting administered through the Council for Children and Families (CCF). At one point CCF was up for elimination. In the end the Council remained as administrator of home visiting programs, but with a $1.492 million budget cut. The result will be a 25-30 percent cut to program services in the 2009-11 biennium.
- Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)had a waiting list of 2,610 in January—twice the number on the list the January before. Clearly, demand is growing for this comprehensive early learning program that serves families up to 110 percent of the poverty line. In the end, ECEAP administration lost 2.2 full-time positions for a savings of $818,000, and funding for seats in the program were cut by 2.1 percent, or $2.3 million. That will translate into an estimated 160 slots cut from the program.
The subsidized child care co-pay very low-income families pay for child care, so they can go to work, will NOT go up as proposed in the Governor’s budget.
- A Kindergarten Readiness Assessment will by developed and pilot tested by the state Department of Early Learning, supported by $100,000 in the state budget. They have until January 15, 2011 to report back to the legislature.
SAVED BY THE FEDS!
- A couple of programs retained their funding only because the federal stimulus money backfilled the cuts in state funding.
- WA State Childcare Resource & Referral Network, for example, got $850k in state funding and $850k in federal stimulus funds.
- The Career and Wage Ladder, which creates incentives for child care teachers to advance their education and professional development, remained whole through a combination of $1.5 million in state funding and $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds.
CUT TO THE BONE
- The Quality Rating and Improvement System, the state pilot program to rate the quality of childcare centers, was left with $1 million after the lawmakers cut $4 million from the project budget. The funds that are left are going to Thrive by Five Washington so they can keep current pilot projects running.
• Parent/Family Friend and Neighbor Care, which supports play and learn resources, parent education workshops, and informational literature on child care, took a $1.2 million cut to end up with only $400,000 in state funding.
- Child care licensing staff—already stretched—lost five positions, for a savings of $870,000.
MOVING TOWARD A BRIGHTER FUTURE
- The state’s definition of basic education now includes early learning thanks to House Bill 2261. What that means is that eventually every low-income 3- and 4-year-old in Washington State will be guaranteed the opportunity to participate in a high-quality preschool program.