The 2015 legislative session began with a bang! There has been a flurry of early learning developments. We’ve compiled some important highlights and action opportunities from the last week.
Action items and advocacy opportunities
- Children’s Alliance put out an Early Start action alert. Sign and forward to others in your community who might be interested.
- Rep. J.T. Wilcox (R-Yelm) and Rep. Joel Kretz (R – Wauconda) are holding a Twitter and Facebook town hall from 12:15-12:45 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 2.
Early Start Act
- Hearings on the Early Start Act began this week, with the Senate hearing on Monday and the House hearing on Wednesday. This is the first step in a looong process for the act. We will keep you updated as amendments are considered, the fiscal note is released, and funding for the bill is debated.
- On Monday, Thrive Board Chair Kevin C. Washington testified in favor of the bill; Thrive Community Momentum Director Dan Torres followed with testimony on Wednesday. They both focused on the provisions of the bill related to equity, access and quality. You can watch Dan’s testimony. There is also interesting testimony from providers and other stakeholders.
General session updates
There are a number of interesting and important early learning bills this session. Here are a handful that Thrive is tracking:
- Universal Developmental Screening (Senate Bill 5317 and House Bill 1365). 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 our state’s Medicaid system isn’t required to do so.
- Dual language immersion (HB 1783 and 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.
- Office of Native Early Child Care and Education (SB 5160, no House companion bill yet). This bill would create an office within the Department of Early Learning that is devoted to meeting the early care and education needs of American Indian and Alaska Native students. Among other things, this office would support early learning professionals to meet the needs of Native children, facilitate the development and implementation of culturally relevant curricula, and seek funds to increase the number of early learning professionals from tribal communities.
We will keep you posted as there are new developments!