Oregon’s 2013 Legislative Successes

Oregon took another major step toward the transformation of its early learning system during its 2013 legislative session. Two years ago the legislature created the Early Learning Council to take a more comprehensive look at how early childhood services are delivered, and articulate a new vision for Oregon. This session took important steps toward making that vision a reality.

HB 2013 contains one of the Children’s Institute’s and Ready for School’s legislative priorities: the creation of the Early Learning Kindergarten Readiness Partnership and Innovation Fund. This $4 million Partnership and Innovation Fund will help local schools and early childhood programs build the connections that sustain gains made in early childhood through the early elementary years that we know are crucial for long-term success. “Because the fund is an investment in innovation,” said Isaac Regenstreif, Ready for School chair, “we see it as having a long term pay-off for the state as local communities create new partnerships that then become models and inspirations for others. We’ve already seen this happening with the two Early Works sites.”

HB 2013 also launches seven regional Early Learning Hubs this year, and another nine to cover the rest of the state the following year. Through these Hubs, communities will be able to coordinate and tailor early learning services to best meet the needs of children and families. We know that communities across the state have already begun robust conversations about how to form these hubs and reorganize the delivery of early childhood services.

HB 3234 creates a new Early Learning Division within the Department of Education, consolidating the administration of key early childhood programs such as Oregon Head Start Prekindergarten, Healthy Start, and child-care licensing. We believe that an Early Learning Division will improve the coordination, focus and accountability of our early childhood programs, and ensure that we are delivering results for children and families, and for Oregon.

The next year will be an exciting one for young children in Oregon as the new Early Learning Division takes shape, as Early Learning Hubs are launched, and as communities work together on Partnership and Innovation Fund projects. We know that much hard work and good thinking is needed ahead to ensure these reforms are successfully implemented. If we do succeed, Oregon will have laid a solid foundation for its “P20” education continuum.

David Mandell and Robin Doussard, the Children’s Institute