The Colorado legislative session has come to a close! After considering nearly 800 bills and resolutions these past few months, Colorado policymakers adjourned for the year on May 11th. Clayton Early Learning tracked over a dozen bills related to our children, their caregivers, and the field of early childhood this legislative session, several of which passed into law:
- HB16-1227: Exempts a CCCAP applicant who is a teen parent from the current prerequisite child support cooperation as a condition of receiving child care assistance. The bill also exempts an applicant who is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, harassment, or stalking from child support cooperation requirements or from establishing good cause for not cooperating as a condition of receiving child care assistance. This bill would eliminate one of the key barriers for teen parents and domestic violence survivors seeking to access child care.
- HB16-1242: This supplemental appropriation bill for the Colorado Department of Human Services includes a reassignment of funding to go to doubling the amount of Early Childhood Mental Health Intervention Specialists employed by the state from 17 to 34. This means more readily available help and resources to organizations like Clayton to support positive mental health of our children, families, and staff.
- HB16-1423: Tightens statewide restrictions to protect student data privacy by adopting additional duties that the state board, department of education, school districts, boards of cooperative services, and charter schools must comply with to increase the transparency and security of the student personally identifiable information that the department and the education agencies collect and maintain.
- HB16-1425: Specifies that a licensed child care center is not required to obtain immunization records for any child who enrolls and attends the center for up to 15 days or less in a 15-consecutive-day period. A center that accepts short-term enrollees can only do so only if it provides notification to all parents who have children in the center that the center allows short-term enrollees without obtaining proof of immunization.
- SB16-22: Removes the 10-county limit in the “cliff effect” pilot program for CCCAP to allow additional counties to participate in the pilot program. The pilot program addresses the “cliff effect” that occurs when working parents receive a minor increase in their income that makes them ineligible for child care assistance, which is often not enough of an increase to cover child care costs completely. The pilot allows for a more gradual phase out of assistance to help families transition.
- SB16-212: Aligns state law with changes in federal law related to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). The state law would be modified to specify that a child receiving CCCAP supports continues to be eligible for those supports for an entire 12-month period before eligibility is redetermined, as long as the child's family income remains below 85% of the state median income for that family size, as required by federal law. This correction to state law would also support the CCCAP reforms that have been occurring since the passage of HB14-1317 in 2014 that Clayton Early Learning has played an active role in implementing.
Bills that Clayton Early Learning followed that did not pass includes:
- HB16-1002: Re-enacts the repealed K-12 Parental Involvement Act which required employers to provide its employees up to 18 hours per academic year of unpaid leave from work to attend a child’s academic activities. This bill would expand both the types of activities that were permitted for the employee leave, such as parent teacher conferences, as well as expand the law to include parents of preschoolers.
- HB16-1022: Increases the amount of funding school districts receive to more comprehensively fund full day kindergarten. According to this bill, if a school district does not currently provide a full-day kindergarten program during the 2016-17 year they must use these new funds to expand its kindergarten facilities. Funding for following school years are also written into the bill.
- HB16-1045: In 2013, the general assembly created a child tax credit against state income taxes for a resident individual. But the credit, which is a percentage of the federal child tax credit based on the taxpayer's income, is only allowed after the United States congress enacts a version of the "Marketplace Fairness Act". This bill repeals the contingent start of the tax credit and instead allows the credit to be claimed for any income tax year beginning with the 2016 income tax year.
- HB16-1050: Creates a task force to address the child care needs of low-income parents of young children as the parents seek to advance their education. The task force must identify and reduce, if possible, barriers to obtaining child care from the range of available federal, state, and private child care sources, determine whether the parents' child care needs can be met through existing sources, review and streamline the processes for providing child care for parents while they obtain education or training, communicate the availability of child care from public and private sources to parents who are seeking education or training, and recommend legislative changes.
- HB16-1196: Creates the aspire to college Colorado pilot program in the department of human services to provide college savings accounts, as defined in the bill, to preschool-aged children served in an early childhood program. Within existing appropriations, the state department shall make an initial $50 contribution to a college savings account administered by CollegeInvest as part of the college savings program on behalf of an eligible child.
- HB16-1338: Under current law, the early childhood leadership commission is scheduled to repeal on September 1, 2018. The bill extends the repeal date to September 1, 2020.
Just because the legislative session is over doesn’t mean that the policy process stops! Summer and fall are busy seasons for legislators, as they meet with their constituents, attend interim commissions, prepare for elections and begin to draft bills for the upcoming session.
If you have any questions about these bills or ways to be involved in the legislative process while policymakers are out of sessions, please contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist for Clayton Early leaning: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every year, Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Children’s Hospital Colorado team up to host Speak Up for Kids, a complimentary event that provides an insider’s perspective of the policy making process including the training and support needed to speak up effectively on the issues that matter most to Colorado kids. Anyone who wants to learn how to be a voice for our state’s children are welcome to attend and this year we had a record breaking attendance of over 200 advocates and coaches!
Want to know what it’s like to participate in this annual event? Let’s hear from our guest blogger and Infant/Toddler Supervisor at Clayton Early Learning in Far North East Denver, Lydia McKinney.
"The first time I had the privilege to participate at Speak Up for Kids was three years ago. I attended the meeting by myself. I didn’t know anybody. Of course, I was aware of who Children’s Hospital and Clayton Early Learning were, and I knew more about Children’s Campaign after I researched them. That first day I went home with a pocket full of knowledge, an experience which opened the door to opportunities, and a goal to keep pursuing where my heart leads.
The following year I was invited to be an advocacy coach on behalf of Clayton Early Learning and this year I was a table captain. An advocacy coach answers all the questions you have about your legislature, walks with you to the Capitol, and guides through the process of it. A table captain initiates a conversation at the table where participants of all field attend. Each time I attended the meeting I meet people, developed relationships, and connect with old friends.
A wide variety of people take time off from their busy work schedule to participate in the training, meet legislators, and reflect on their experience with fellow participants, advocacy coaches, or table captains. It’s a day you meet people you thought would never have time for you because they are doing the important work of making policies. The best part of meeting with policymakers is realizing you are the one they want to meet and listen to. You are the most important advocate for our kids!
Now you may be thinking of yourself as your read this blog, “only people whose job it is can afford to advocate” or “they have lobbyists who advocate for causes”. However, your role as an advocate didn’t start because you attended Speak Up for Kids, the event only re-enforced the need to follow your passion. Let’s say you are a provider with a disabled child who you want to provide with the best care, but practically you cannot because there is no access to a playground that developmentally appropriate. It’s your passion, so pick up your phone and call your city council man/woman, express your worries, ask for referrals, and make your mission public. Advocacy is in all of us, we are all connect to children no matter what kind of jobs we have. Police officers, trash men/women, bus driver, city council women/ and men, the mayor, Senators and Representatives, the Governor – even you!"
Interested in learning more about Speak Up for Kids and other ways you can be an advocate for Colorado’s children? Contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist at Clayton Early Leaning, at 303-393-5623 or email@example.com. Also check out pictures from this year’s event at www.facebook.com/ClaytonEarlyLearning/!
Last week in Chicago, over 60 early childhood state advocates from 17 states gathered for the 2015 Policy Exchange meeting sponsored by the Ounce of Prevention Fund. This annual meeting brings together state based advocates, national organizations, state government officials, researchers, academics and programmatic leaders to discuss the current early childhood policy challenges and opportunities in their states and learn from one another. Though each state is working in a different context of government, funding, and culture, commonalities can be found across the country in early childhood priority issues.
This year’s conference focused primarily on the reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which was passed by Congress in 2014. CCDBG is the main funding source for many states’ child care assistance programs, including Colorado’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). In order for states to receive CCDBG funding, their state officials must submit a state plan that outlines how the funds will be used, who will be involved, and how the funded programs will be evaluated. The legislation that Congress passed last year made several changes to the requirements for state plans, including:
- More of a focus on ensuring quality in child care programs and increased funding requirements for quality initiatives
- Easier public access to information about child care, especially on consumer websites
- Increased requirements for the health and safety of child care programs, including disaster preparedness plans
- Increasing access for vulnerable populations to child care, with a particular focus on children with disabilities and homeless children
- More supports for families receiving child care assistance, including a 12 month eligibility re-determination, allowing at least 3 months of assistance during a parent’s job search, and providing graduated phase out assistance to families that have increased their income
Other policy priorities that advocates from across the country discussed at the Policy Exchange included continuity of child care, mental health and social/emotional development, policy innovations in Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, funding for early childhood, marketing and communications messaging, and alignment between early childhood and the K-12 system.
The Policy Exchange also gives a chance for states to highlight their successes from the past year. Some of the policy gains for early childhood from across the states included:
- California’s legislature and governor reached a budget agreement that added 7,000 preschool slots and 6,800 child care slots in the state, totaling nearly $400 million in new investments
- Louisiana passed legislation requiring the Department of Education to find funding sources to increase early childhood care and education by $80 million
- The Education Committee in Maine requested the Maine’s Children’s Growth Council, Maine Children’s Alliance, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University to gather more detailed information on the social emotional development of children and develop appropriate policy recommendations for the legislature
- Nebraska passed legislation which will allow a family to receive transitional child care assistance if an increase in family income puts them over the limits to receive assistance
- Oklahoma’s legislature passed several bills to promote early learning and literacy for children through 3rd grade
- The Washington Legislature is considering in special session the bipartisan Early Start Act to help parents find care and learning opportunities that are tailored for their children, enhance school readiness, and support providers to provide high-quality care that is culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of young learners and their families
To find out more about the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the annual Policy Exchange, please visit http://www.theounce.org/involved/events/policy-exchange-meeting.