NCSL Early Care and Education Update



Recent NCSL Early Care and Education Products

NCSL’s Early Care and Education staff, along with our colleagues in education and health, host webinars and podcasts, produce reports, create webpages and pen articles to support your work. Here are our recent products.

Building a Qualified and Supported Early Care and Education Workforce
An estimated 10 million children from birth to age 5 spend time in center- or home-based early care and education (ECE) settings each day. Because children learn and grow wherever they are and every interaction with a caregiver affects their development, a well-qualified and supported workforce is essential to ensure early learners are set up for success in school, work and beyond. In this NCSL report, learn about ECE workforce preparation standards, compensation issues and what states are doing to address both.

Washington State Early Learning Forum
In January NCSL staff, members of the Washington Legislature and community stakeholders hosted an Early Learning Forum for new and returning legislators. This new web page highlights sessions from the day, including handouts and PowerPoint presentations. Read this blog post for a summary of the day.  

Maternal and Child Health Database
Find enacted maternal and child health (MCH) legislation through this NCSL database. Legislative topics include newborn screening, women's health, childhood obesity and nutrition, maternal and infant mortality, maternal and child mental health and more.

Podcast | Brain Development and Childhood Adversity
Explore adverse childhood experiences and the importance of positive brain development in a recent “Our American States” podcast from NCSL. Learn from experts Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, founder and chief executive officer for the Center of Youth Wellness, and Dr. Ross Thompson, a distinguished professor in the department of psychology at the University of California. This podcast was made possible with funding from ZERO TO THREE as part of Think Babies™, which was developed to make the potential of every baby a national priority. Funding partners for Think Babies™ include the Perigee Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which supports the public education aspects of Think Babies. Learn more at

Recently Introduced and Enacted Legislation

Young boy playing with wooden alphabetical blocksNCSL’s early care and education database tracks introduced and enacted legislation from the 2008-2019 legislative sessions for all states and territories. Issues include child care and child care financing, governance and data strategies, prekindergarten, professional development, home visiting, infants and toddlers and financing for early education. Legislation can be searched by state, topic, status, primary sponsor, bill number or keyword. The database is updated weekly through the generous support of the Alliance for Early Success.

Many states have begun their 2019 legislative session. View NCSL’s state legislative session calendar online. Visit the NEW early care and education legislative database to view all introduced and enacted bills in 2019. Or access historical information from 2008 through 2018.

Introduced bills of note:

  • Colorado HB 1005 | Representative Janet Buckner (D), Representative James Wilson (R), Senator Nancy Todd (D) and Senator Kevin Priola (R) | The bill allows an income tax credit to eligible early childhood educators who hold an early childhood professional credential and who, for at least six months of the taxable year, are either the head of a family child care home or are employed with an eligible early childhood education program or a family child care home.
  • Minnesota HB 1 | Representative Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL) | Creates additional funding and opportunities for children birth to age 3; governs certain programs and funding for prenatal care services, home visiting, early childhood education, and child care assistance; appropriates funds.
  • Mississippi HB 1384 | Representative Sam Mims (R) | Creates a statewide quality framework for child care centers to improve the level of quality of child care centers and ensure continuity of high-quality care as a child transitions across programs and into the school system; to provide that under the statewide quality framework, child care centers will be able to achieve a standard or comprehensive designation from the Department of Human Services; to specify the minimum requirements to be designated as a standard or comprehensive child care center.
  • New Mexico SB 22 | Senator Michael Padilla (D) | Creates the early childhood education and care department. Transfers early childhood-related functions of other state agencies to the early childhood education and care department, expands early prekindergarten and prekindergarten program eligibility, transfers personnel, functions, money, appropriations, other property and contractual obligations, changes references in law, makes appropriations.
  • South Carolina HB 3458 | Senator Leola C. Robinson (D) | Requires the Department of Health and Environmental Control to coordinate the states response to adverse childhood experiences and their negative impact on health and well-being through comprehensive data collection and analysis, training, and collaboration with public and private stakeholders on research based and evidence-based strategies to prevent adverse childhood experiences and mitigate their impact.
  • Texas HB 822 | Senator Tan Parker (R) | Addresses adverse childhood experiences and develops a strategic plan to address those experiences.
  • Washington HB 1351 & SB 5437 | Representative Robert E. Goodman (D) and Senator Lynda Wilson (R) | Expands eligibility to the early childhood education and assistance program.

Research Request of Note: Do States Have Early Learning Focused Departments Created through Legislation?

Two young children, a girl and boy, reading a book together. Question: Have states created new early learning-focused departments through legislation?
Answer: In recent years, states have examined and revised components of state early care and education governance by legislative and/or administrative means. States that have implemented governance changes by consolidating, merging or creating new entities include Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. The extent to which states have consolidated programs and services under a single entity varies widely. 

Below are legislative examples and additional resources.

State Governance Models and Legislative Actions Pennsylvania and Washington:

PENNSYLVANIA Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL)
Governance Model Administrative integration across agencies—Oversight is jointly shared between the Department of Public Welfare and Department of Education.
Year Established and Mechanism 2004 (HB 4904)
Authority Fiscal, policy setting, rule-making, staffing.
Description of Governance Change  Direct ECE programs under one authority and apply uniform standards across agencies (data, professional development, QRIS, assessment, accountability). 
Programs Involved Child care subsidy, licensing, quality
Head Start State Collaboration
Preschool Special Education-Part B
State full-day kindergarten
Home visiting
Other: Children’s Trust Fund
State pre-K (Department of Education) 
Early Intervention-Part C (Department of Education)
Additional Resource Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning website.  
WASHINGTON Department of Children, Youth and Families
Governance Model Cabinet level, non-commissioner level position, director appointed by governor.
Year Established and Mechanism 2017 (HB 1661)
Authority Fiscal, policy setting, rule-making.
Description of Governance Change Systems-level coordination and merging of several different entities.
Programs Involved in Integration Child care subsidy, licensing, quality
State Head Start 
State pre-K 
Early Intervention-Part C
State full-day kindergarten 
Home Visiting
Child welfare
Juvenile rehabilitation
Programs not Involved Preschool Special Education-Part B (Department of Public Instruction).
Additional Resources Washington State Department of Early Learning website.
Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families website
Thrive Washington is a nonprofit focused on advancing high-quality early learning in the state. 

Related Resources:

  • Bipartisan Policy Center state fact sheets.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Early Child Care and Education: State and Territory Governance Structures (2015)
  • Build Initiative A Framework for Choosing a State-Level Early Childhood Governance System (May 2013)
    • Provides an overview of three state governance structures—coordinated governance, consolidated governance, creation of a new agency. 
    • Reviews current state examples and practices for each of the three models.
    • Provides an assessment of the challenges and advantages of each governance model.
    • Makes recommendations for state leaders to help determine which structure might work for their state.

2019 Early Learning Fellows

capitol dome outline with NCSL and Early Learning Fellows spelled outThe nomination, application and selection process for NCSL’s 2019 cohort of Early Learning Fellows is underway. Now entering its eighth year, this program, through a competitive application process, accepts approximately 30 NCSL members annually to dive deeply into many of the early learning policy options being discussed throughout the country. After gaining approval from leadership in your chamber applications for 2019 must be received by March 29.

The Early Learning Fellows program is designed for those chairing or sitting on human services, education and appropriation committees. It includes two face-to-face meetings, two webinars and ongoing technical assistance from NCSL staff.

As of 2018, 189 legislators and 25 legislative staff representing 48 states and two territories have participated. NCSL has hosted 13 in-person meetings, 16 webinars and five site visits, as well as published 28 blog posts and newsletters for the Fellows program. Alumni represent a balanced cross-section of party and chamber representation. Learn more about the first seven years of this program in an alumni report and NCSL blog post

Email if you have questions about the program or selection process.

This project is funded by the Alliance for Early Success, Buffett Early Childhood Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Federal Update

Photo of Margaret WileNCSL’s Washington, D.C., office has a new staff member working on Health and Human Services policy. Margaret Wile will serve as a senior policy specialist for state-federal affairs. Margaret transferred from NCSL’s Denver office, where she worked for three years on maternal and child health and behavioral health policy. Prior to her work at NCSL, she was a research analyst for the Joint Committee on Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery in the Massachusetts General Court. She also taught a macro social work class at Simmons University. Margaret holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of New Hampshire and a master’s degree in social work from Salem State University.

NCSL’s Washington, D.C., staff ensure state legislatures have a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system. Stay current with NCSL’s bi-monthly Health and Human Services State-Federal Newsletter for health and human services committee members. Newsletters are archived on NCSL’s website.

Federal Funding Updates:

  • Last year the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of Education, solicited applications from eligible states and territories to carry out the activities of the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five funding opportunity, a $250 million competitive federal grant designed to improve states’ early childhood systems by building upon existing federal, state, and local early care and learning investments. Forty-five states or territories received initial grant awards ranging from $538,000 to $10.6 million for the grant period ending December 30, 2019. NCSL will continue to track progress and share updates.
  • The Administration for Children and Families is soliciting applications for Child Care Policy Research Partnership grants. Grants will be for $100,000 to $400,000, due in June 2019, and are cooperative agreements conducted through partnerships between Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Lead Agencies in states, territories, or tribes and researchers from institutions of higher education, research organizations, and other eligible organizations.

Calendar showing the year 2019Mark Your Calendar

2019 Legislative Summit
NCSL’s Legislative Summit is your ticket to national policy experts, in-depth educational sessions, professional development and networking. Stay tuned for more information about the 2019 Summit, Aug. 5-8, in Nashville, Tenn.



National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers, Online Solution Center | January 2019

A new website from the National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers’ aims to consolidate a wealth of prenatal-to-three policy resources at your fingertips. The site is brimming with case studies,  research-based messaging, and state and county-level information. The National Collaborative for Infants & Toddlers is funded by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, which is committed to advancing promising policies and programs that ensure every parent has the support they need to give their children a strong start in life.

Barriers to Expansion of North Carolina Pre-K: Problems and Potential Solutions

Source: National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) | January 2019
A report commissioned by North Carolina business leaders highlights three interrelated issues critical to expanding North Carolina’s pre-K program: accurately determining how many children are eligible but lack access, analyzing whether county waiting lists accurately reflect the need, and barriers to expanding the program to fully meet the actual need. NIEER used the Cost of Preschool Quality & Revenue calculator to analyze how the state’s pre-K funding mechanism is hampering enrollment. Read the report.


Want to Grow the Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis

Source: Council for a Strong AmericaReadyNation | January 2019
Read the report.

Untangling the Evidence on Preschool Effectiveness Insights for Policymakers

Source: Learning Policy Institute | January 2019
Read the report.

Opinion | How Current Policy Hurts our Youngest Citizens

Source: The Hechinger Report | January 2019
Read the article.

How State-level Child Care Development Fund Policies May Shape Access and Utilization  among Hispanic Families

Source: Hispanic Children and Families | January 2019
Read the report.

The Effects of Maternal Depression on Early Childhood Development and Implications for Economic Mobility

Source: Brookings | January 2019
Read the report.

2018 Making Care Less Taxing: Improving State Child and Dependent Care Tax Provisions

Source: National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) | December 2018
Read the report

Creating an Integrated Efficient Early Care and Education System to Support Children and Families: A State-by-State Analysis

Source: Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) | December 2018
Read the report or individual state fact sheets also available.

Evaluation of North Carolina’s Smart Start and NC Pre-K Programs: Follow-Up Through Eighth Grade

Source: Duke University | December 2018
Read the executive summary, working paper and recent news article about the findings. 

Executive Function Skills | Viewpoint

Source: American Enterprise Institute (AEI) | December 2018
Read the article.

Early Learning Facilities Policy Framework

Source: The Bipartisan Policy Center | November 2018
Read the report.

American Voters’ Attitude Regarding Early Childhood Education

Source: First Five Years Fund | November 2018
Access the poll and results.

Frequently Asked Questions about Kindergarten Entry Assessments

Source: Child Trends | November 2018
Read the research brief.  

Building Strong Foundations: Racial Inequity in Policies that Impact Infants, Toddlers, and Families

Source: Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) | November 2018
Read the report.

Creating a Profession:  Leveraging Investments in Early Childhood Education to Transform the Workforce

Source: T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood National Center | November 2018
Read the report.

View the winter 2019 ECE Update as a PDF