By Lizzeth Mancilla
Engagement and Policy Intern
Early learning matters for our families, our businesses, and our future. Children, families, and early childhood professionals are celebrating the signing of the Fair Start for Kids Act and its historic investments in early learning. These strong investments in child care, quality pre-K, and other birth-to-5 services will help ensure that all children are thriving — and help Washington get back to work.
In this webinar, Washington state Representative Tana Senn and Senator Claire Wilson, prime sponsors of the Fair Start for Kids Act, along with early childhood education providers Luc Jasmin III from Parkview Early Learning Center in Spokane and Susan Yang from the Denise Louie Education Center in Seattle, explained how the newly signed omnibus legislation takes strong steps to address affordability, access, and the economic crisis. They also answered your questions.
What is in the final version of the Fair Start for Kids Act?
Here are some key components of the Fair Start for Kids Act, Senate Bill 5237:
Supporting workforce and expanding supply
The Fair Start for Kids Act will take a step towards supporting the workforce. Providers will receive a $100 per month stipend to help pay for health care, which is crucial as many child care providers today don’t have health care and are still willing to take care of kids even through the pandemic. Furthermore, $10 million a year will be set aside for professional development opportunities, in which providers will have access to scholarships to continue their education, including credentials needed for work.
Another aspect of this legislation is expanding supply. There will be a $48 million capital investment through early learning facilities funds, which are key to expanding and building new child care. Additionally, shared business hubs will help support child care businesses with payroll, supply purchasing, food purchasing, and other needs in order to run their business. There will also be technical assistance for non-child care businesses looking to explore ways to open child care on their premises or other ways to work with their employees to get child care.
More affordable and accessible for more families
The Fair Start for Kids Act will cap co-payments to $115 maximum for the next year, “and moving forward, people won’t pay more than 7% of their income.” In addition, Washington’s income eligibility will depend on the state median income rather than the federal poverty line, increasing the number of people who may qualify for subsidies. The legislation will also support student parents, no longer requiring them to work 20 hours a week as they return to school for a degree or certificate.
Other key components
Other components include dual language and equity grants. There will be incentives and support for child care facilities offering dual-language programs. On top of that, equity grants will support the implementation of cultural education in ECEAP programs. For example, Representative Senn explained how these grants will support a Tribal community wanting to incorporate their tribal culture into the program.
Kids get kicked out of child care 13x more often than in K-12 schools, as stated by Representative Senn. This legislation will focus on trauma-informed support and mental health consultation by expanding these services and providing extra support for these providers who specialize in mental health, trauma, and behavioral issues.
The state will also expand access to “Play n’ Learn Groups” to give family, friends, and neighbors taking care of kids an opportunity to socialize, stay connected, learn from each other, and bring kids together.
Another major component involves home visiting and ECLIPSE expansion which includes “expanding home visiting and ECLIPSE services to help reduce special education before kids even get to public schools and to build those parenting skills at home as well.”
How does the Fair Start for Kids Act support providers?
Luc Jasmin III from Parkview Early Learning Center in Spokane and Susan Yang from the Denise Louie Education Center in Seattle explained how this legislation will support them and their staff in their workplace.
Luc Jasmin III started off by explaining how crucial the health care stipends will be for staff who can’t afford it otherwise. The rate increases will also allow Luc to give his staff a $1 hourly raise for compensation and benefits. In addition, Luc believes the equity grants will help “preserve parent choice… and meet the community where their needs are.”
Susan Yang values how the Fair Start for Kids Act will make child care more affordable and accessible to more families. The Denise Louie Education Center programs predominantly serve immigrant refugee families, so moving the income eligibility expansion to be state median income-based will allow more families to qualify for these services.
Watch the full LEVinar recording here (closed captioning is available in English and Spanish).
Read our summary of the Fair Start for Kids Act (PDF)
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