Governor Restores “Preschool Promise”

In 2016, for the first time in memory, the Governor promised to include an increase in funding for early childhood education in the 2017/18 budget. This meant that Early Childhood advocates would not have to start from zero with the January proposed budget, as they have done in the past. Anyone familiar with policy through the budget process knows that it is much easier to start with something than it is to start with zero. With his projections of reduced revenue, Governor Brown’s January budget proposal didn’t fund that promise, and instead he stated that he was delaying it to later years because of concerns related to reduced revenue.

With $2.5 billion more than expected in revenues, the Governor replaced some of those child care funds in the May Revise last week. Here’s some info from First 5 California regarding the revise:

First 5 California Executive Director Camille Maben stated, “Out of $2.5 billion in increases between the January and May state revenue forecasts, there is room for increased investments in child care if there is political will. Unfortunately, 70,000 fewer children are served today than in 2007, and an estimated 1.2 million eligible children lack access to care that could change their lives and keep their parents in stable employment. The final State Budget must include a modernization of child care eligibility and modest investments in child care access—California cannot afford to miss this investment.”

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Chicago, high-quality early childhood development programs can deliver an annual return of 13 percent per child on upfront costs through better outcomes in education, health, employment, and social behavior in the decades that follow. The findings show high-quality early childhood programs can increase economic mobility for two generations by freeing working parents to build their careers and increase wages over time, while their children develop a broad range of foundational skills that can lead to lifelong success.

The May Revise fully funds last year’s multi-year budget deal for per-child funding rates for state child care programs with a $210 million adjustment to the January Budget. However, the May Revise does not fully fund the previous year’s budget deal for preschool slots, or provide any increased access for infants and toddlers.

During the recession, California slashed more than $1 billion in funds and froze eligibility for subsidized child care programs for low-income working parents. Those cuts eliminated child care and preschool for tens of thousands of children. Cuts to child care alone totaled nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal years 2007–08 through 2011–12, according to budget estimates from the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Child care advocates across the state are relieved the May Revise restores last year’s budget deal for per-child rate increases, as well as a cost-of-living adjustment. With the Administration’s renewed support for rate increases included in the May Revise, the last month of the legislative debate will focus on increasing children’s access to high-quality child care.

Geography of Poverty

California has the world’s 6th largest economy, just behind the United Kingdom and ahead of France. Yet if the 43 leading economies were ranked on their percentage of children in poverty, California would rank 43rd. How is it possible that we are 6th our of 43 in wealth but 43rd in the number of children living in poverty?  What are we doing to invest in California’s future? Childhood poverty is a strong predictor of  health, education and economic well-being in adulthood.  If we don’t invest more consistently in our children, the adults that will be running our businesses, accessing our health care, and generating the tax base for our essential services when we are elderly will be struggling and need supports themselves.

If you are interested in child poverty in our state, the Public Policy Institute of California has issued this report. Humboldt’s population is unfortunately too small to generate zip code-level data, but the report is still worth the read, and this interactive map is interesting.

Home Visiting Hearing in Sacramento

From the First 5 Association:

On May 3rd, Dr. Arambula (Fresno) held a hearing on CalWORKS, which included a new effort to create the CalWORKs Home Visiting Program. As Chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Health & Human Services (Budget Sub-1) and author of AB 992, legislation that would authorize this home visting program, Dr. Arambula led the discussion about the value of home visiting and the positive impacts on families.

First 5 was represented at the hearing by a mother who had received home visting through First 5 San Joaquin, Dawn Arlt Narayan who oversees First 5 San Joaquin’s home visiting program that serves CalWORKs familes, and Margot of the First 5 Association, who testified on First 5’s support for the program and our history in funding home visiting across the state.

Key moments from the hearing included:

  • Dr. Arambula appreciation for the mother’s testimony and his recognition about the proven impacts of home visiting;
  • Assemblymember Devon Mathis’ (Visalia) comments about the power of early interventions and his personal experience of his son being diagnosed with autism;
  • Will Lightbourne (director of DSS) acknowledgement of First 5’s critical leadership in building home visiting systems across the state.

The Association will be drafting a budget letter soon to support the CalWORKs Home Visiting Program. At which time, more will be available on how to support this home visting effort!

Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education

The Assembly Speaker, Anthony Rendon, has convened the first meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood.
Here’s the summary from the First 5 Association:

Blue Ribbon Commission’s First Hearing
The Speaker-appointed Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education held their first hearing in Sacramento yesterday. The first hearing provided a platform for the commissioners, both Assemblymembers and child care experts, to introduce themselves and offer what they hoped to discuss and tackle as a commission.
Notably, many commissioners discussed the importance of studying issues facing infant-toddler-, preschool-, and school-aged students, along with workforce concerns. Additionally, many acknowledged that the system is widely under-resourced. As such, the commission is also tasked with discussing funding sources to support recommended changes.
Three speakers helped set the stage and provide a historical overview of child care systems in California and the many state and federal funding streams. Speakers included:  Erin Gabel, Deputy Director External Affairs, First 5 California  Donna Sneeringer, Policy Director, Child Care Alliance of Los Angeles  Rowena Kamo, Research Director, CA Child Care Resource & Referral Network

First Blue Ribbon Commission hearing held in Sacramento on March 6th
All three speakers discussed how child care funding remains 20 percent below pre-recession levels, which has impacted all providers. Rowena Kamo highlighted the dramatic impact of budget cuts have had on family child care providers. Erin Gabel discussed the school-side of child care and relayed that the system, while complex, was designed to address the diversity of parent’s needs and meet the dual workforce and child development goals. Donna Sneeringer focused on the voucher-side of child care and discussed how Alternative Payment Programs provide the needed flexibility to meet the needs of families with non-traditional and unpredictable work schedules. She also discussed the complex reimbursement structure through the Standard Reimbursement Rate (SRR) and Regional Market Rate (RMR) and encouraged commissioners to address the discrepancies between these two structures.
Handouts from the presentation are available here. The hearing’s full agenda is available here. The next meeting has not been announced, but the Association is monitoring the hearings and will be meeting with many of members of the commission.

Advocacy Committee Votes to Support Legislation
The Advocacy Committee met on February 22nd to take positions on bills.
Please remember that it is still early in the legislative process and the Advocacy Committee will be voting on additional bills in the coming months. If you would like to recommend that the Association take a position on a specific bill, please contact Margot.
Most notably, the Association the voted to support AB 60 (Santiago/ Gonzalez Fletcher), legislation that will update the State’s Median Incomes (SMI) level to current date and provide continuous 12 month child care eligibility for families. This legislation is the same as last year’s AB 2150 and is a top priority in the child care field. The Association submitted a support letter and we encourage other commissions to do the same. The bill will be heard in the Assembly Human Services Committee today.

Reflective Practice Training

Meg Walkley and Beth Heavilin will present a Reflective Practice workshop for IMPACT participants on March 18. They will be offering workshops on this valuable approach each year of the IMPACT program. Reflective Practice promotes a thoughtful, client/family/child-responsive approach to interactions, supervision and support services. It is an approach used by multiple human service fields, including nursing and teaching. It is also content that is required for California Infant-Family Early Childhood Mental Health (IFECMH) endorsement. The IMPACT program will prepare participants for when we have an in-county endorsement process.

Children Now Releases New Policy Vision Report

From First 5 Association:
Children Now has released a report, Starting Now: A Policy Vision for Supporting the Healthy Growth and Development of Every California Baby available here.

This report reflects Children Now’s effort to map a comprehensive system for supporting children 0-5. The report is notable for its focus on local communities and local control, mirroring the approach of the LCFF. The report specifically calls out the work of First 5 Commissions as efforts to leverage and the importance of aligning data and accountability efforts at the state level.

First 5 Association in conversation with Children Now about how best to incorporate this report into our ongoing policy work, particularly in the areas of home visiting, family strengthening and early intervention.

Evaluation of First 5-funded Programs

Kim and Maria (our evaluators), Andrea and I are preparing for the Program Evaluation Team (PET) meeting on March 30. Once programs submit their interim reports at the end of January, the race is on to analyze all the survey and report data from our 28 funded programs, including data from prior years, into a manageable form for the PET process. The bulk of the work is done by Kim and Maria. Andrea’s input is invaluable, and she spends a significant amount of time preparing materials for this process. Meg, Beth, Laura and I also provide input. The Evaluation Framework is on the March Commission agenda for approval. It was an information item in January, a discussion item in February and is up for approval in March. This evaluation framework is the backbone of the PET evaluation framework, outlining First 5 goals and the indicators used to measure our success.

The PET includes two Commissioners, a former Commissioner, Kim, Maria, Nancy Howatt, Andrea and myself. We will meet for a very, very long day in March to review all the data and preliminary feedback from Kim and Maria. The PET will formulate recommendations for the Commissioners to consider at their April and May meetings. Because Commissioners will have 28 programs to discuss, we split them between two meetings and make those meetings 2 1/2 hours long. There is often public comment during these meetings. Andrea will notify each program that their program will be discussed at the Commission meetings, and programs will be given the PET recommendations prior to the meeting, for their review. Once the Commission finalizes their recommendations, those serve as the foundation of the Scopes of Work and Evaluation Plans that accompany each program agreement/contract.

At this same time, Kim and Maria, with input from me, are also working on our annual Evaluation Report on funded programs and our Community Report, the first of which was developed last year. (In many ways, it mirrors the calendars that First 5 Humboldt used to produce.) Our annual Evaluation Report includes all the survey data collected by programs, so this information is readily available to the public. The Community Report is a more concise representation of First 5 Humboldt’s work. We will be sharing the Community Report in a public meeting, as well as with policymakers, once it is complete.

First 5 Humboldt is rigorous in its evaluation of what is funded. Over the last year, Kim and Maria have led many, many discussions on what information is truly needed, as we want to ensure that we are requesting the least, but the most useful, information possible. This year has been one of transition, with the IMPACT program giving us access to a new data system which will eventually reduce the workload of playgroup leaders, First 5 staff and evaluators. Next year will again see transition, as we evaluate programs by our new strategic plan goals. First 5 Humboldt Commissioners can take pride in the thoughtful and transparent process of program evaluation, developed by previous Commissions under the guidance of our founding ED, Wendy Rowan. With the Strategic Plan, our evaluation process ensures accountability and responsiveness to the current needs of Humboldt County families.

A Few Bills Concerning First 5 Humboldt’s Mission

Assemblymember Ting has introduced AB 1175, which is a “spot bill” requiring the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop standards for the implementation of quality child care and development services programs. Ting is a member of the Assembly Speaker’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education, tasked with developing “solutions to improve results for California’s youngest learners and their families” (Feb. 1, 2017).

Senator McCarty has introduced AB 11 to address trauma-informed care in child care settings. The bill is still in “spot bill” form, without specifics. However, trauma-informed care has been a focus of our Commission and the 0 to 8 Mental Health Collaborative, so this bill is worth watching. It is a milestone that early childhood and trauma-informed care have appeared together in a legislative action. The F5 Association is monitoring this bill, awaiting more specific language.

AB 15 and AB 753 both address increased Denti-Cal reimbursement. AB 753 additionally appropriates $191m of Prop 56 dollars, with increased reimbursements targeted to the 20 most common pediatric diagnostic and restorative services. Oral health and Denti-Cal reimbursement have both been a focus of our Commission. The Association has voted to support both of these bills. The “competing” bills may have bit to do with partisanship. Irregardless, it is important that this issue is being addressed, as oral health care is at a critical issue in our county, and the Denti-Cal system needs to be fixed.

SB 18 (Pan) proposes a Bill of Rights for Children and Youth in California. The bill outlines basic rights of children and includes an action component to determine the revenue necessary to fund evidence-based policy solutions to fulfill these rights. Because of this action component, this bill is more than just a statement and potential forms the backbone of holistic change in California. This bill is co-authored by Senator Mike McGuire. The Association has voted to support.

AB 43 (Thurmond) Taxation: prison contracts: goods and services. This bill would levy a tax on private companies that contract with the corrections industry to provide goods and services. It would establish a “Prevention Fund” to support programs that prevent incarceration, including preschool, higher education and poverty reduction. This is an innovative approach. According to the First 5 Association, it may be the first of its kind in the US. The Association has voted to support.

AB 175 and AB 350: These two bills address child-resistant packaging (AB 175-Chau) for edible marijuana products, and ensuring that marijuana edibles packaging is not appealing to children. Research from Colorado shows that after legalization, the state saw a spike in emergency room visits by young children who had consumed edibles. The Association has voted to support these measures.