There are a number of critical pieces of legislation related to early learning in the 2015 legislative session. The legislature is still in the midst of an extended session (special session) as they work to finalize a bipartisan budget, so the final outcome of each of these bills remains to be determined:
The Early Start Act (HB 1491/SB 5452) will:
- Continue our state’s quality rating and improvement system, Early Achievers
- Focus on improving and maintaining quality child care coupled with support for providers to reach higher levels of quality
- Reward quality with increase reimbursement rates
- Provide ongoing coaching and technical assistance for providers
- Focus support on linguistically diverse and low income communities
- Ensure that public dollars fund quality programs
- Provide continuity of care for families by making it easier, simpler, and more efficient for families to continue receiving subsidies through Working Connections Child Care
- Improve data collection and evaluation of early learning programs so that state leaders can better understand and evaluate early learning needs across the state
- Increase efficiency through a single set of licensing standards for all child care programs, including the Early Childhood Education and Assistance program
- Elevate the importance of cultural competence by training and coaching for providers on how to provide the most culturally competent programming
Bright Futures/Autism and Developmental Screenings (HB 1365/SB 5317): This bill would ensure that Medicaid reimburses doctors for five developmental and autism screenings instead of just the one for which it currently reimburses. Private insurers must cover all five, but currently our state’s Medicaid system isn’t required to do so.
Dual language Immersion (HB 1783/SB 5675): This bill would create grant programs to expand dual language programs and bilingual education for early learners, elementary students, and secondary students. It would also create a scholarship to meet the demand for bilingual teachers.
Other important early learning issues:
- Funding for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. The amount of funding going to ECEAP expansion will be determined by final budget negotiations.
- Funding for Home Visiting. This too will be determined by final budget negotiations.