Leg Update #7 Week 6 of Session Friday, 3/1/2013

CONTENTS


SINGLE BEST INVESTMENT OF THE WEEK:

Urge your elected officials to meet the statutory deadline that all children may be served by the state’s high-quality comprehensive preschool, ECEAP, by the 2018-19 school year. ECEAP’s research demonstrates that by the end of the school year significant gains are achieved in learning, health, and social-emotional outcomes. Currently ECEAP serves only 37% of all eligible 3- and 4-year-olds, thus meeting the 2018-19 deadline will require accelerated expansion of the program.

What is ECEAP?

  • The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is Washington State’scomprehensive preschool program that serves vulnerable 3- and 4-year olds.  Its whole-child approach contains three primary components: 1) preschool (minimum of 320 hours a year); 2) family support services; and 3) health and nutrition.
  • Modeled after the successful federal Head Start program, ECEAP first began in 1985.
  • To be eligible for ECEAP, a child must meet one of three criteria: 1) family income less than 110% of the federal poverty level ($24,585 for a family of four); 2) developmental or environmental risk factors that could hamper school success; or 3) placement in foster care.
  • ECEAP is currently funded at $114 million for the 2011-13 biennium.  Of this amount, $78 million comes from the Opportunity Pathways Account (funded from the state lottery), $34 million is state General Fund and $2.25 million comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund.  The average cost of ECEAP per child per year is $6,812.
  • Current funding supports 8,391 slots at 265 sites in 37 counties statewide.  Two-thirds of the children served live in families with incomes less than 80% of the federal poverty level ($17,880 for a family of four).
  • ECEAP is currently only able to serve 37% of the children eligible.  In January 2012, 1,360 four-year olds and 1,987 three-year olds were on waiting lists.
  • For additional information on ECEAP see 1/28/11 legislative update.

What does the law say?

  • ESHB 2731 was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by former Governor Gregoire in 2010.  This bill created a voluntary early learning program for vulnerable 3- and 4-year-olds modeled after ECEAP. It set the deadline of the 2018-19 school year for when all eligible children should have access.  It also expanded ECEAP eligibility to include children who qualify for special education services and required the Dept. of Early Learning (DEL) and the Office of Financial Management (OFM) to provide annual caseload forecasts each December.
  • Washington State has faced continuous years of significant budget cuts.  Although the Legislature has been able to maintain funding for ECEAP, it has yet to make any progress toward the 2018-19 deadline.  The December 2012 DEL/OFM analysis estimates that an additional 11,291 slots above the fiscal year 2013 level will be needed to meet the statutory requirement for increased access.  In her final budget, former Governor Gregoire proposed a $50 million down payment that would fund an additional 5,125 slots.

Why does this matter?

  • Vulnerable children lack access to comprehensive services.  Research shows us that low-income levels are a risk factor for our children and two-thirds of children in ECEAP are from families at or below 80% of the federal poverty line—that is less than $17,640/year for a family of four.  At the same time demand is high with more than 3,300 children on waiting lists.
  • ECEAP has proven positive outcomes.  The ECEAP 2011-12 Outcomes report produced by DEL showed ECEAP participants demonstrated big gains in social-emotional development, physical and pre-academic skills; increased parental capacity to support their children’s success in school and life; and improved access to medical and dental care.  Specifically, only 20% of ECEAP students were at or above age level for mathematics in the fall of 2011.  This number rose to 88% in spring 2012.  Further, over the course of the school year the percentage of children behind schedule for dental screenings fell from 47.7% to 10.6%.
  • ECEAP enjoys broad bipartisan support, but action is needed to meet the 2018-19 deadline.  The Legislature has continually heard from a diverse choir of ECEAP proponents over the years. When faced with challenging budget decisions, legislators have continually protected ECEAP.  This is meaningful because the state has decreased funding for other popular, proven programs.  Continued advocacy is needed to drive the point that further investments in ECEAP are needed in order to eliminate program waiting lists and meet the 2018-19 statutory deadline.

What can you tell your elected officials?

  • I urge you to support increased investments in ECEAP, our state’s comprehensive high-quality preschool program for vulnerable 3- and 4-year-olds. Per ESHB 2731 (2010), ECEAP should be accessible to all who are eligible. Yet currently only 37% of eligible children are served.  Funding for more than 11,291 slots will be needed.
  • You face incredible challenges to balance the budget.
  • Choose to invest where the results are proven. Per the ECEAP 2011-12 Outcomes Report, ECEAP participants demonstrated big gains including a 68% increase (from 20% to 88%) in children at or above age level in mathematics from the fall to spring.
  • Chose to invest in the children and families most at-risk. ECEAP serves children from families with income less than 110% of the federal poverty level ($24,585 for a family of four). Two-thirds of children in ECEAP are from families at or below 80% of the federal poverty line—that is less than $17,640/year for a family of four.
  • I join families, communities and diverse, bi-partisan leaders and urge you to support increased access to ECEAP.

How do you contact your elected officials? 
Use the legislative district finder to learn your state senator and two representatives. You can email, write (via postal letter), or call them (1-800-562-6000). Be sure you include your address in your email or letter so they know you are a constituent.


WEEK AT A GLANCE

Supreme Court decision could translate into more revenue options for Legislature.  On 2/28 the Washington State Supreme Court released its ruling that found I-1053 to be unconstitutional. I-1053 was the third in a series of three initiatives (predecessors were I-601 and I-960) that aimed to require the Legislature to achieve a super-majority, or two-thirds vote, to approve tax increases.  As a result of this ruling lawmakers are once again able to approve taxes with a simple majority, or 51% vote. This ruling has implications for the legislative session underway now because it removes a significant barrier to increasing revenue in order to address the K-12 and other funding shortfalls. 

Fiscal committee cutoff today. Floor cutoff approaching.  Today is the deadline for bills to be voted out of the fiscal committee in the chamber from which they originated (e.g. House bills must be voted out of the House fiscal committees; Senate bills must be voted out of the Senate fiscal committee).  This means that bills that were not voted out of a fiscal committee of the originating house are “dead” and no further action can be taken this session.   An exception to this rule is when bills are deemed “NTIB” or Necessary to Implement the Budget.  NTIB bills do not adhere to the same deadlines and may be revived at any point during session. Additionally, the issues in “dead” bills that have fiscal impacts may resurface in budget line items.  These two scenarios are not uncommon.

The next deadline facing legislators is 3/13 when bills must be voted out of their house of origin (e.g. House bills out of the house; Senate bills out of the Senate).  While much of the legislative activity to date this session has been focused in committee hearing rooms, the next week and a half will find legislators largely engaged in floor sessions where they will debate and vote on bills that are still alive in the legislative process.  These deadlines serve as a funnel to winnow down the proposals under consideration.

Budget discussions will begin in earnest once the next state budget forecast is released on 3/20.


BILL ACTION

Early start bill receives house appropriations hearing.  HB 1723, prime sponsored by Representative Kagi, received a public hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on 2/26.  A panel of advocates and providers testified in support of the bill mirroring the testimony heard in the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee.  The bill received no debate absent a question from Rep. Gary Alexander about the fiscal assumptions for the bill’s intended funding source, I-502 revenue (the legalization of specific marijuana).  Rep. Kagi has included the estimate OFM prepared in their analysis of the initiative, which projected the General Fund portion would bring in $187 million in revenue.  Without an infrastructure in place for implementing a legalized marijuana market and questions around interaction with medicinal marijuana and potential federal government involvement, these estimates can be viewed as speculative.

With an eye toward reducing the bill’s fiscal implications, amendments were on the agenda in the House Appropriations Committee this morning to narrow the bill’s scope.  Specifically, two amendments were offered. The effects of the first amendment are to: (a) remove an expansion of eligibility for ECEAP from 110% federal poverty line to 130%; and (b) remove the ECEAP per slot rate to mirror the federal Head Start slot rate which is much higher. The second amendment further softens the financial risk by making implementation upon funds available. In other words, if the anticipated funding source (I-502 or an alternative source) is not secured, then the sections of the bill relating to increased funding for home visiting, ECEAP, and a rate increase for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidies are null and void.  That leaves funding for expansion of ECEAP at the current the slot rate in the bill.

Action on this bill has been swift given the fiscal committee cutoff today. We will continue to report on this bill in next week’s update.

Child care bills receive financial review.  HB 1671 prime sponsored by Rep. Farrell was heard in the House Appropriations Committee on 2/28.  The Committee heard testimony from the business and provider community emphasizing the importance of child care quality.  The WCCC rate increase that was originally included in HB 1671 was removed and then inserted into HB 1723.  HB 1671 now serves as a policy bill designed to improve the WCCC system for parents and providers.  On 2/28, the House Appropriations Committee approved HB 1671 on a party line vote with Democrats approving and Republicans opposing.  Prior to the vote, an amendment was accepted which had the affect of keeping WCCC eligibility parameters the same.  The amendment was offered to reduce the bill’s costs.

The Senate companion bill, SB 5595, received a hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on 2/28.  The bill is scheduled to be voted by today’s deadline. If this bill is not approved, it will die in committee.

These actions represent a shift of focus to the budget as proposals with significant cost implications are weighed carefully.

WaKIDS bill advances out of the House.  HB 1369, prime sponsored by Rep. Lytton, passed out of the House on 2/27 in a floor vote of 90-7.  The approved bill kept intact the 5-day waiver to allow kindergarten teachers to meet with families at the beginning of the school year.  The Senate’s vehicle for this remains SB 5330 (a larger education reform package) that includes a 3-day waiver.   We can expect negotiation between the Senate and the House on a final number of allowable meeting days.  For additional information on HB 1369, see 2/8/13 UWWA Legislative Update.

Collective Impact initiative presented at Senate work session.  The RoadMap Project, a collective impact initiative focused in South King County, presented at a Senate Early Learning and K12 work session this week. The RoadMap Project works with the 7 school districts in South King County to create a cradle-to-college action plan to increase graduation rates and other key indicators of success for children in the region.  Organizations at the table range from local government and school districts, to non-profits and private enterprise.

Collective Impact (CI) recognizes that social issues are complex and require a coordinated response from the business, nonprofit and funding communities.  CI is based on the assumption that to change complex social conditions, multiple players need to align their work and funding, develop a common agenda, utilize shared measurement tools and continuously communicate. In this era of limited public dollars, collective impact also models how public and private investments can better be aligned to produce shared goals and outcomes.  This model also highlights the need for intentional community involvement and buy-in to ensure success.

Although a number of CI initiatives are underway in communities throughout the state, the framework is not as familiar to state policy makers.  This work session provided an opportunity to educate lawmakers about this effort and the need to reduce siloes and take a longer-term approach to complex problems.  Our state’s biennial budgeting process makes it challenging for lawmakers to test approaches that are stretch beyond the two-year budget cycles.  Yet, the research behind CI indicates these issues require time and a collective and coordinated approach from all stakeholders, including state government.