Changes to State support of early learning programs are designed to increase access to high quality care
Wilmington, DE – Having made early childhood services a priority of his administration, Governor Markell announced today enhancements designed to help more early childhood programs receive high ratings and make it easier for kids from low-income families to get the best care.
Effective July 1, top quality programs will receive higher reimbursement rates from the state for accepting kids from families whose incomes are 200 percent of the poverty level or less. In addition, recently-published research by Stanford psychologists has found that “two-year-old children of lower-income families may already be six months behind in language development.” Delaware will become just the second state, after Rhode Island, to make infant care a special priority by providing funding for the additional staff necessary to work with the state’s youngest kids.
The state will also focus on providing the specific support child care providers say they need to increase their quality rating. At the same time, to earn the top ratings, programs will be held accountable for meeting specific standards based on research about factors that most affect a child’s development – like a curriculum focused on intentional teaching and a highly trained staff.
“To build a strong future for Delaware, we must give our kids the best chance to reach their potential,” said Governor Markell. “But we can’t wait for kindergarten to start preparing them for success. Quality early learning and care results in better educated, healthier, and more responsible adults. It’s a vital building block for the strong and sustainable workforce that determines America’s ability to compete in the decades to come.
“I’m proud of the progress we have made and I’m committed that we will not rest until every child has a fair opportunity.”
Background of Early Childhood Enhancements
The changes outlined below build on progress Delaware has made since Governor Markell proposed, and the General Assembly passed, a $22 million investment in 2011 to increase early childhood’s budget by a third. That funding was the start of an effort to significantly upgrade the state’s STARS Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) by increasing the number of high-quality early learning programs and giving the best programs the support they need to accept kids who could otherwise not afford to enroll.
State reimbursements for those children were significantly increased to 80 percent for three-star programs, 90 percent for four-star programs, and 100 percent for five-star programs. (Programs are rated on a 1-5 scale.)
Last year alone, the number of low-income Delaware children attending a high quality program increased by 50 percent, representing 2,200 kids.
Funding for the latest upgrades – the first major changes to funding for early learning programs since the initial improvements – come from the $50 million federal Early Learning Challenge grant that Delaware won in 2011, to continue to improve early childhood education in the state.
“These enhancements reflect the result of a comprehensive review of our programs, extensive feedback from early care providers, and a close examination of the research on successful early childhood programs,” said Jennifer Ranji, Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and their Families. “We know that the greatest benefits of early childhood programs only materialize when we’re able to offer the highest quality care from birth to kindergarten and today’s announcement brings up closer to making that a reality for all of our children.”
“I’m very hopeful that these changes will allow more programs to afford infant care,” said Cheryl Clendaniel, administrator at The Learning Center in Milford. “We see how important those first months are in a child’s development, but the amount of the resources it takes to support infants has made it extremely hard for centers to offer space for them.”
2014 STARS ENHANCEMENTS
Full implementation of formative child assessment
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