SCAN volunteer leader Jennifer Spires (left) and SCAN state manager Annalise Romoser (right) meet with Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
As many state legislative sessions wrap-up across the country, we’re taking a moment to recognize the many investments states have made in early childhood education (ECE).
We’ll begin with the 2018 election, where we saw ECE become an important issue among gubernatorial candidates. In fact, a recent analysis by the Center for American Progress showed that nationally governors proposed $2.9 billion in new state funding for child care, preschool and home visiting programs!
Here are some big victories for kids in states this year:
As a part of the Kindergarten NOW Coalition, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN) activated its robust grassroots presence in the state to successfully advocate for bipartisan bill HB 1262, legislation that allocates $184 million for full-day kindergarten for all 178 school districts. Championed by Governor Polis, this bill creates opportunities for districts to offer programs to 13,000 kids who currently do not have access to full-day kindergarten. It also frees up funding for over 5,000 preschool slots in the Colorado Preschool Program.
State lawmakers overwhelmingly approved SB 274, legislation that makes home visiting programs for children and families available to all Medicaid eligible children and expecting mothers. This expands access to hundreds of children and families across the state.
Working with Governor Lujan-Grisham, key partners and lawmakers, we successfully helped achieve a close to 50% increase in state ECE funding at a total of $42.5 million. An additional $5 million was also allocated for the planning renovation and construction of preschool classrooms. Additionally, we mobilized in support of approving SB 22, creating the Early Childhood Education and Care Department. This legislation establishes a cabinet-level department to consolidate and oversee the state’s early childhood programs.
After supporting her re-election and early education campaign platform in 2018, we backed Governor Raimondo’s proposal to expand pre-K in Rhode Island. Thanks to her efforts, along with state lawmakers, the governor signed a state budget that increases preschool funding by $8 million and provides 280 new high-quality seats.
In Tennessee, this year’s state budget approved by lawmakers includes an additional $1 million for voluntary home visiting programs that will expand programs to hundreds of families. This builds upon last year’s $1.4 million in state funding that was restored after nearly a decade of cuts. Our advocates also mobilized to successfully defeat legislation that would have diverted funding from the state’s Voluntary Pre-K program
Working closely with our partner, Let’s Grow Kids, and Governor Phil Scott, we successfully advocated for a state budget that includes a $7.4 million increase for the child care subsidy program. This means nearly 3,000 Vermont families will be able to better afford high-quality child care that provides kids with a foundation for success.
Following last year’s unprecedented increases in state support for home visiting programs, lawmakers approved an increase of $3.8 million in home visiting funding, which will be supplemented by $3.8 million in federal matching funds. This means 420 additional families will be served in FY2020 and 840 families in FY2021. We also partnered with the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP to successfully advocate for SB 5437, which creates an Early ECEAP pilot program that will expand services for babies and toddlers to underprivileged families (similar to Early Head Start).
These are tremendous victories for kids! Lawmakers took action after hearing from advocates like you. SCAN advocates sent thousands of emails, wrote letters and made phone calls in support of these policies. Every coloring sheet delivered to a lawmaker or letter to the editor signed by a passionate advocate added up to build a powerful movement for kids.
Additionally, many of these victories were supported by strong bipartisan majorities, which proves that investing in early learning is a winning issue among voters and we should keep pushing until all children and families have access to high-quality early care and education.