Child Care and Early Education 2009 Legislative Action

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During the 2009 legislative sessions, states grappled with the pressing issues of large budget gaps, declining revenues and an increased need for public assistance. In FY 2010, states reported budget gaps totaling $174.1 billion. Because of these difficulties, the number of bills enacted from 2008 to 2009 dropped significantly. Despite this, a number of states protected investments in young children and avoided cuts to early childhood programs; some states even increased their commitment to early care and education.  A total of 15 states adopted new early care and education laws addressing a range of issues, including prekindergarten, governance, child care, financing and quality improvement.

Six states enacted laws concerning prekindergarten, including expansion, capital construction, Head Start and community collaboration, and program promotion. Ten states passed laws to address child care financing, quality improvement measures, and child development and safety.

This summary highlights legislative enactments on early care and education in 2009. Additional actions that were taken through the state budget appropriations process are not necessarily included in this document. The legislation highlighted below generally represents stand-alone bills.

2009 Laws of Note

Several new laws are noteworthy because they exemplify a current trend or a new or emerging idea. The bills described in this brief include preschool expansion, including pilot programs; child care subsidies and expansion; quality improvement, including quality rating and improvement systems; and professional development initiatives.

Prekindergarten continues to be a popular topic in the states. In Texas, the Legislature passed a bill to provide high-quality, full-day prekindergarten for children in school districts that have applied for funding through a grant program established for this purpose (HB 130). The program would be free of tuition or fees and staffed

by certified teachers with training in early childhood education. Although the bill was vetoed by the governor, a $25 million appropriation for the program remained intact and was used to expand the state’s existing prekindergarten grant program. The new appropriation is expected to serve 27,000 new students during the next two years. Missouri lawmakers enacted a pilot preschool program to improve school readiness for children (SB 291). Illinois appropriated $45 million to support construction, expansion and improvement of early childhood facilities statewide.

Professional development programs for early childhood educators received attention from states this year as part of efforts to improve early childhood education. These programs included continuing education initiatives and creation of new early childhood teaching credentials. Arkansas and North Dakota passed laws that created new teaching credentials (HB 1132, Act 187 and HB 1418, Chapter 425, respectively).

As of 2009, 19 states had active statewide quality rating and improvement systems, and an additional 27 states are exploring or preparing to launch programs.2 These systems use a mix of quality measures to rate providers and often offer financial incentives for providers that take steps to improve or continue quality. During the legislative session, Minnesota and North Dakota enacted laws to support creation of voluntary quality rating and improvement systems.

Several states passed legislation to help finance child care construction or to expand programs. In Arkansas, a new law (SB 963, enacted 1485)extends child care benefits to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families recipients who are enrolled in a two-year college. It also requires the state to develop rules to support development of an evening child care program with extended hours. A new North Dakota law provides funds for a new financing and grant program to help expand or update licensed child care facilities (SB 2225, Chapter 108).

In February 2009, the U.S. Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to stimulate the economy. The act contained a number of provisions for early childhood, including a $100 million grant to support creation and activities of state early childhood advisory councils.3 In previous years, governors and legislatures have created a number of early childhood councils. In 2009, Arkansas and Ohio were the only states to create advisory councils through legislative action (Ohio HB 1 , Arkansas HB 1044, Act 28). More.