Chelle Downey-Magee, Director of Issaquah Montessori, is the Private Schools Representative for the Early Learning Advisory Committee. The October 3 ELAC meeting occurred in SeaTac at the Crown Plaza Hotel. Chelle’s recap of the meeting follows:
After a welcome and introductions, we were reminded of the importance of completing feedback loop forms, and now more than ever, keeping the racial equity questions in mind during every discussion.
At the August 3 ELAC meeting Vickie Ybarra, Director of Research and Analysis, presented a progress report on Level 2 enrollment in Early Achievers. At that time members of ELAC asked for additional information regarding completion of Level 2 enrollment by race and language. The statistics show that out of 2729 subsidy providers:
· 94.8% of English-primary providers and 99.4% of non-English providers have completed Level 2
· 95.3% of white providers and 98.1% of providers of color have completed level 2
Regional coalition representatives presented updates—all worthy work but nothing remarkably outstanding.
Department of Early Learning updates were presented by Frank Ordway. “I’m here, you’re here, let’s all be here.”
The partnership between Thrive and DEL for the home visiting program is off to a good start. They’ll be asking for additional funding. Frank met with 78 superintendents from rural districts in eastern Washington—early education is a priority. All the school districts in the state want early learning in their programs.
This legislative session deals with the supplemental budget and is limited to technical fixes which will focus on:
· Home visiting program
· Family, Friends and Neighbors program support
· Other minor technical work but no policy shifts
The Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) does exist, and currently has 4 employees. In the next legislative session it will ask for funds to:
· Increase EACAP slots, specifically for infants and toddlers
· Assistance for and investment in teenagers exiting the foster care system. “We’ve gotta wrap our arms around those kids as they transition to adulthood.”
During the transition from DEL to DCYF the legal, budgetary and communication/outreach are being done by other agencies. DCYF’s structure is unique in that it has both an ombuds office and an oversight committee. DEL currently has 28 advisory groups, all of which have to be looked at and rationalized in light of the new agency. They feel strongly about establishing a culture of engagement, accommodating persons from as wide a range as possible.
Next, we were treated to a presentation by a panel of stakeholders who have been involved in the negotiated rule making process to align EACAP, Early Achievers, and licensing rules. This alignment was mandated by the Early Start Act. Each meeting involves about 50 stakeholders at 5 large tables, working through each and every letter and consequence of each rule. They’re looking at content and language, as well as weighting the rules, keeping in mind the safety and well-being of children, affordability and sustainability. Of the 112 total sections to be negotiated, 39 have reached consensus, 9 have reached partial consensus, 68 are in the queue for consensus and 8 have been tabled. WFIS’ Executive Director Suzie Hanson has participated as a negotiator in the WAC alignment meetings since they began in the spring. This project has taken much longer and required more patience and process than anticipated when it was proposed. After consensus is reached on all the rules, a year of training and communication will follow, with implementation currently projected in September 2019.
After lunch, Frank Ordway took the floor again, this time talking about Working Connections. The program is going to be consolidated in to DCYF, rather than spread between DEL and DSHS as it is now. The program is rife with challenges, they have trouble maintaining enough providers. There isn’t a policy response for a lack of availability in the system. However, the provider community has stepped up to the plate and is doing what the State asked as far as Early Achiever participation and Working Connections participation; the State needs to pay well. During the transition to DCYF it is essential that care isn’t disrupted. The Working Connections program servers 50,000 kids in the state every day. A new digital time and attendance system will be adopted by providers that take children on subsidy to provide an audit-able trail of the program.
And for something completely different, the parent advisory group panel spoke about the availability of childcare in their region; both the existence of centers as well as affordability. One mother, formerly homeless, told the group that her daughter is able to have sufficient food because she’s enrolled in an EACAP program.
We also continued a discussion regarding a public information campaign about unlicensed care, similar to that in Texas. With the addition of the parent advisory group and new members on ELAC it was a very lively discussion! The overriding, very strong, sentiment was that DEL should engage rather than oppose providers who are doing unlicensed care. This issue may be tabled for the time being.
Finally, we took a look at the ELAC work plan. The next meeting is in Spokane on December 5. Regionalization for programming delivery from the DEL systems and the Director’s List are the two top items on the agenda.