Oregon’s young children won a major victory last week

On the last day of the 2015 Oregon legislative session, the Oregon Senate approved a bill that will make high-quality preschool available for more children from low-income families in the state. That vote marked the final approval of the Children's Institute's entire legislative agenda for improving early learning in Oregon.

The Legislature's approval of the preschool legislation will give 1,350 more Oregon 3- and 4-year-olds the opportunity to access the quality preschools that can get them ready for kindergarten and for long-lasting school success.

The new legislation, supported by the Children’s Institute and a broad coalition of more than 30 Oregon organizations, will provide a blueprint that allows for a mix of providers – school districts, Head Start programs and community preschools – to receive state funding to offer high-quality preschool programs.

Both houses of the Legislature this session also approved two other important initiatives that the Children’s Institute and a coalition of groups supported: an expansion of home visiting services for at-risk families and expansion of the Kindergarten Partnership and Innovation Fund, which provides grants that connect early learning to the early grades.

All of the legislation now moves on to Gov. Kate Brown – a staunch supporter for early learning investments in Oregon – for her signature.

"We know investments early in children's lives continue to pay dividends for them and their families as they grow,” Brown said. “Oregon's future is brighter when all Oregon families thrive."

The Legislature made a number of important investments in early learning during the session. Here’s a summary of the new investments:

  • a $27 million investment that will make high-quality preschool available for more children from low-income families in the state. The investment means 1,350 more Oregon 3- and 4-year-olds will be able to access quality preschools that can get them ready for kindergarten and long-term school success.
  • $47.3 million to expand access to subsidized child care and support improved quality
  • $4 million for the state’s early intervention/early childhood special education program
  • $9.5 investment to expand voluntary home visiting services for families, to ensure more at-risk infants and toddlers receive support during their critical early years of brain development.
  • $5 million additional investment to expand a fund that provides grants that connect early learning to the early grades. The grants are focused on important early learning strategies like family engagement and kindergarten transition programs.
  • $10.3 million above the 2013-2015 appropriation for the state’s Early Learning Hubs
  • $1.7 million for a school attendance pilot project to work with schools serving large populations of Native American students in order to decrease chronic absenteeism
  • $3 million to develop an education plan for children of color who are economically disadvantaged and experience a significant achievement gap
  • $1.2 million for Relief Nurseries in the state
  • Additional dollars to support the roll-out of full-day kindergarten across the state

Swati Adarkar, President and CEO of the Children’s Institute, credited the success of the early learning initiatives in large part to the commitment and passion of many Oregon state leaders, including Gov. Brown, Rep. Betty Komp, the primary sponsor of the preschool bill, Sen. Rod Monroe, a stalwart supporter of early learning, Rep. Tina Kotek, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Sen. Richard Devlin and Rep. Peter Buckley, co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee.

She also credited the success to the coalition of business, children and family advocacy groups that were steadfast in their commitment to improving the lives of Oregon's youngest learners.

"Oregon really took a step forward this legislative session to expand early learning opportunities for children in our state," she said. "That step forward happened because of the vision of our state leaders, and the passionate advocacy of a large group of Oregonians who know that investing in early learning changes lives and futures."

-Todd Murphy
Director of Communications
Children's Institute
(July 12, 2015)

A version of this blog appeared on the Children's Institute's website on July 6.