Bold, transformational change for children and their families requires a diverse, equitable, and enduring coalition working in the state to set and execute policy agendas.
While incremental budget increases, policy wins, and regulatory improvements are important, enduring systemic shifts require more than legislative advocacy “under the dome” of the state capitol. Bold change requires a constituency for early childhood policy that is too big and united to ignore. The Alliance’s strategy for accelerating state early childhood advocacy is built on this fact.
In 2022, the Alliance elevated best practices for centering voices with lived experience and the critical need for authentic coalitions in which members build shared and collective power. These efforts encourage state advocacy landscapes to evolve and become more equity-focused and inclusive in pursuit of long-term, systemic transformation.
Advocates in North Carolina are actively seeking out grassroots partnerships in order to center community voices as experts. NC Child and the Charlotte affiliate of the National Black Child Development Institute (BCDI-Charlotte) co-lead a care and learning initiative—CandL—which works to move the state toward an equitable early education system. In 2022, they were able to expand outreach to additional grassroots organizations in their targeted 27 counties, and then attract additional funders to add 10 additional counties in the western region of the state. These partnerships are bringing in diverse parent voices to develop deeper understanding of the needs and challenges families face, and to forge broader connections, such as with primarily Spanish-speaking communities. They are building an army of organizations working with families to inform and advocate for transformative change.
Alliance allies collaborated with coalitions of early educators and child care providers to influence the distribution of federal COVID-19 relief funds. Coalitions of early childhood stakeholders provided extensive feedback on child care stabilization grants and helped articulate priorities for additional spending of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) discretionary dollars. Coalition efforts included work groups, statewide listening sessions, and qualitative and quantitative research on needs and barriers.
As coalitions grow in membership and influence, they are expanding into issue areas that indirectly impact families with young children, such as voting rights and state budget revenue efforts. In Rhode Island, the Right from the Start Campaign joined a larger coalition to push for improved access to voting by mail and early in-person voting so that parents have more options to participate in democracy. In West Virginia, child advocates joined existing coalitions in vocal opposition to repealing the state personal income tax, which would have had profound, negative impacts on state-funded programs for children and families.
Established coalitions are also more nimble, as they are able to seize opportunity quickly and powerfully. In Connecticut an existing coalition sprang into action to protest inadequate, level funding for child care in the state budget. Advocates, child care providers, and parents banded together and delayed openings of child care locations for a high-visibility “Morning Without Child Care.” The rallies in cities across the state gained significant media attention and, ultimately, budget concessions.
Big advances, like the ones throughout this report, are increasingly won at the hands of equitable coalitions working in authentic, trusting partnerships.
The Alliance continued to pursue its commitment to accelerating the evolution of state advocacy landscapes through peer learning opportunities that give allies the knowledge, tools, and relationships to pursue long-term, systemic transformation in a manner that is sustainable and equitable. Several communities of practice launched in 2022 give grantees opportunities to focus on the “how” of advocacy with cohorts of six-to-eight teams over six-to-nine months.
- Emerging Leaders in Infant Toddler Policy unites traditional and grassroots voices, and deepens their shared understanding of infant and toddler policy while building powerful partnerships grounded in racial equity.
- Operationalizing Equity increases awareness and helps build the skills necessary to “bake” equity and shared power into the cultures of state advocacy organizations.
- Centering Parent and Practitioner Power sparks courageous conversations that deepen understanding, appreciation, and skills necessary to equitably value the expertise of community members in policy and advocacy work.
The year was an important one for the Child Care NEXT initiative, a proving ground for the impact that comes from diverse coalitions that prioritize parent and provider leadership and build collective power. Recognizing that transformational change takes time, Child Care NEXT provides multi-year funding so coalitions can establish a strong foundation, build trust, and share resources—both financial and experiential—to radically change child care policies and funding.
In 2022, diverse teams in Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Virginia undertook intensive planning efforts to build strong coalitions, identify a transformational vision, and draft a campaign plan to achieve that vision. To create cohesion, states developed and committed to values and operating agreements that guide decision-making and ensure that coalition members are approaching child care transformation from a shared foundation.
As a cohort of peers, they shared how they understood and built collective power, and in partnership with evaluators at Innovation Network, they identified common milestones for building collective power.
In Oregon, the coalition intentionally “set the table” by inviting grassroots organizations based in communities of color to establish their steering committee. To ensure that coalition work is “directed by parents and providers,” Louisiana requires that the membership of its committees be comprised of at least 55-percent parents and providers. Colorado translates its meetings and materials into Spanish and Dari and holds meetings in the evenings and on weekends to create opportunities for parents and providers to direct their work.
As the Child Care NEXT states launch their campaign plans in 2023, the Alliance for Early Success looks forward to learning and sharing more about the power, influence, and transformational change that diverse, equitable, and enduring coalition can achieve.
Maternal and Child Health
Advocates are fighting for coverage now—and in the face of imminent cuts.
The early childhood advocacy community continued to respond to the global pandemic and the gaps within the health-care system by working to advance health policy that improves outcomes for young children and their mothers.
Child Health and Mental Health
In 2022, advocates elevated the importance of expanded access to continuous and comprehensive coverage. State allies also made strides to safeguard coverage for young children by advocating for 12-month continuous eligibility policies, allowing a child to stay enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP for an entire year, regardless of family income changes.
To date, 34 states have adopted 12-month continuous eligibility in the Medicaid or CHIP program.
Oregon is the first state to receive federal approval to implement multi-year continuous eligibility for young children, keeping children continuously enrolled until age 6. Advocates in California secured a $20-million commitment in the governor’s budget to adopt continuous enrollment in Medi-Cal through age 5, pending federal approval of their waiver request.
These continuous eligibility policies will be even more important with the expected end of the federally declared public health emergency (PHE) in 2023. In place since January 2020, the PHE required continuous coverage for most enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP until it ends. States are bracing for significant losses of health-care coverage when eligibility determinations are required for the first time in two years. In Pennsylvania, state policymakers agreed to a six-month Medicaid redetermination process, but state allies succeeded in extending the redetermination process to 12 months. State leaders have regular meetings to continue to develop their state plans, and they have launched a website to share information with the public.
With children returning to classroom settings, attention shifted to an increased demand for mental-health services. The early-childhood workforce needs resources and tools to support young children suffering from the social isolation and economic strain on families during the pandemic. Allies in North Carolina released a report on their EarlyWell Initiative, documenting their multi-year journey to strengthen their childhood mental health system. EarlyWell provides a replicable model for states to center the voices of families, caregivers, and providers in their efforts to build adequate early-childhood mental-health systems.
Wisconsin allies secured a $5-million investment of American Rescue Plan Act funding to support an infant and early childhood mental-health consultation program intended to reduce expulsions in early care and education settings.
The District of Columbia increased investment in its Healthy Steps program by $300,000, in order to integrate licensed child-development health professionals into pediatric primary care settings. The District also provided an additional $700,000 to expand its behavioral health counseling services to more child care programs participating in its subsidy program. Georgia, to better leverage Federal Medicaid dollars, clarified Medicaid codes for infant and early-childhood mental-health services and expanded services to children. The Louisiana legislature appropriated $27 million for three years to revive a previously cut program, Early Childhood Services and Supports, to provide families with young children mental health and wrap-around services. Maine and Maryland legislators increased state funding to support infant and early childhood mental health.
Several states achieved wins to better understand the need for and improve the quality of mental-health services. Idaho approved a resolution encouraging state employees to become informed about the impacts of traumatic childhood experiences and implement associated interventions. In South Carolina, the state must review and analyze the availability of mental-health services in public schools and identify barriers to access.
The growing disparities in maternal-health treatment and outcomes received unprecedented acknowledgment at the federal level and a commitment to address the maternal-health crisis in this country. This led to several policy options for states to improve maternal health at the state level, including expanded postpartum Medicaid coverage and federal dollars to support community-based doulas. Maternal health significantly impacts early childhood development, health, and education, and is often overlooked for policy opportunities, but 24 states have adopted 12-month postpartum coverage policies—often as the result of coalition advocacy, like this push in Michigan. Allies in Rhode Island partnered with pediatricians and celebrated several maternal-health policy wins, including extended postpartum Medicaid coverage, increased rates for doulas, and a special enrollment period for pregnant people with private insurance.
Delaware passed the MOMnibus package of health-equity legislation, intended to improve outcomes for mothers at birth. Delaware, Michigan, and Virginia are some of the latest states to expand coverage for doula services. State legislatures took other steps to curb maternal mortality. A handful of states took action to protect immigrant moms and children with the expansion of health-care coverage.
Several states reported increased or restored state funding for home visiting. Illinois rescinded previous cuts and approved $1 million in state funding, a 6-percent increase, for the state’s Department of Human Services’ evidence-based home visiting programs. The increase marked the first new investment in home visiting in Illinois in nearly 20 years. Arizona restored support for home-visiting programs. Healthy Families, a nationally accredited, evidence-based voluntary home visitation program for new parents, had its funding restored after deep cuts in funding over the last decade. Arizona is scrambling to gradually increase program funding by $15 million in 2025 and expand the program to serve an additional 1,500 families.
Allies in diverse states reported increases in home visiting appropriations including Maine, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania.
Vermont highlighted new accountability measures for home visiting. It formalized Parent Child Centers (PCCs) in statute and funding. The legislature increased funding and created clear accountability for PCCs.
In the face of uncertainty, early childhood advocates made significant progress in passing policies that protect coverage and expand access to necessary health care services for young children. To achieve these wins, states went back to the basics by amplifying the importance of consistent, comprehensive access to coverage during those critical, early years in a child’s life. As advocates continue to navigate an increasingly polarized political environment and respond to threats like the Dobbs decision, growing vaccination hesitancy, and challenges to the standards of social and emotional development, keeping maternal and child health at the forefront will remain a high priority.
The Alliance will deepen our support to state allies around maternal health by launching a new community of practice and providing more support and information on how state allies can be better positioned to take advantage of new policy opportunities and funding.
Early Care and Education
In the absence of federal action, states worked to advance equity and investment.
State and national advocates started 2022 with a last-ditch attempt to increase funding for early care and education (ECE) through the federal budget reconciliation process. This all-hands-on-deck effort was to sustain the significant steps they took to stabilize the ECE system, while moving toward even more transformative changes. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) contributed state-level data and research on the impact of the expiration of federal relief funds by surveying early-childhood educators, and the National Women’s Law Center and Child Care Aware of America continue to track state uses of ARPA funds.
With additional federal investments no longer an option, state advocates wasted no time turning to their state legislatures and agencies to maximize use of ARPA funding and enact policy changes that could set a precedent for bolder reforms in the future.
Child Care was perhaps the early childhood story of 2022, as the necessity of high quality and accessible child care gained traction nationally and with more and more state policymakers.
Many states worked to increase access to child care. New Mexico raised eligibility for child care subsidies for families earning up to 400 percent of federal poverty guidelines while waiving co-pays, effectively making child care free for these families. The state also moved away from using market rates to set subsidy rates, and instead increased the amount, based on its cost-of-quality analysis. New York appropriated $1 billion for child care that expands eligibility for subsidies to families earning up to 300 percent of poverty, waives co-pay for families under 100 percent of poverty, and caps co-pays for all other families at 10 percent of their incomes.
The Florida budget includes an additional $156 million for the School Readiness program (through the Child Care and Development Fund), which will raise reimbursement rates and educator pay, while strategically injecting new dollars into communities that have seen tremendous population growth over the years, but no corresponding increases in funding.
Nebraska appropriated funds to its Department of Health and Human Services to set child care reimbursement rates at the 75th percentile as determined by the market rate survey for FY2022-23 and FY2023-24, and the Pennsylvania state budget contained a $25-million increase in state funds to address the many families facing the “child care cliff” by implementing a sliding-scale copayment in the subsidy program for families making between 235 and 300 percent of FPL. Rhode Island expanded Child Care Assistance Program family-income eligibility and made eligibility for low-income college students permanent. Virginia passed legislation to expand child care assistance eligibility and reduces parent co-pays. Families with children under five earning up to 85 percent of the state median income, and families looking for a job are eligible now for this assistance. The budget also eliminates the 72-month time limit to receive assistance, removing an obstacle for families who may have multiple children who could otherwise qualify for assistance.
California’s efforts to increase equity in child care are worthy of note. Noting historic disparities in expulsion and suspension, the California Legislature acted to modify provisions relating to the expulsion or unenrollment of a child from the state preschool program. The legislation also includes child care and family child care and requires all of these programs to maintain records on expulsion and suspension.
Child Care Workforce
ECE workforce issues were a central focus in 2022, and compensation was the top priority for advocates around the country. Alabama doubled the quarterly salary bonuses for child care staff to $3,000 for full-time employees and $1,500 for part-time employees. North Carolina gave providers the option of using federal stabilization grants to increase pay through a salary scale based on parity with public school teachers. Kentucky took a creative route on compensation by making child care staff (not just teachers) categorically eligible for child care subsidies. Like other states, they are also investing in ECE apprenticeship programs, including one for program administrators, to help early childhood educators advance their professional credentials while earning better wages. The Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program for Vermont’s early childhood educators provides up to $4,000 annually to reduce the student debt of full-time educators who earned an early childhood-specific degree within the past five years.
Advocates in Washington, DC, engaged in the implementation of the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund, which provides salary bonuses of $10,000 for assistant teachers and $14,000 for lead teachers. Advocates are now working on a more permanent solution with the government by developing a salary scale that provides compensation parity between public school teachers and early childhood educators with similar levels of education and credential. ECE providers who adopt this salary scale would receive funding from the Pay Equity Fund to increase compensation for their staff. Finally, this fund will pay for publicly financed health insurance plans for all eligible employees of licensed early learning facilities in the District.
California established a Commission on Child Care Providers to develop a grant program to award grants to child care providers to hire more staff and increase the number of child care slots. Idaho invested approximately $100 million in child care provider grants and workforce bonuses for early childhood professionals, and Maine provided $12.1 million in general funds to provide $200 monthly wage supplements for child care professionals through June 2023. Rhode Island passed legislation requiring a state plan to prepare, recruit, and retain a highly qualified early childhood workforce, including adequate wages for early childhood educators regardless of setting. Rhode Island allocated ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Funds to provide two-year retention bonuses ($3,000) for child care educators, expand the T.E.A.C.H. model, and develop an early educator workforce registry. Virginia’s state budget expanded the early educator incentive grant program by an additional $5 million per year to recruit and retain early childhood professionals. The state is also investing an additional $26 million in child care rate increases.
Delaware created a support program for early childhood professionals, including those employed by public schools. Supports for educators include scholarships and wage supplements, tutoring, counseling, coaching, substitute coverage, and community-based delivery of training, such as on-site at a child care center to reduce demands on time and transportation. Maryland passed a package of legislation that dedicates resources for child care stabilization, capacity expansion, and improvement of facilities through no-interest revolving loans. Maryland also invested in child care hiring and retention bonuses.
Notable resources published in 2022 that help states elevate the ECE workforce include the database of compensation strategies from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, and resources on salary scales and ECE apprenticeships from the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood National Center.
Some states focused on creating stronger and more inclusive pathways to build a diverse and effective ECE workforce for the future. Alabama made its first-ever investment of $17.8 million in its quality rating and improvement system. Colorado advocates won $100 million for child care, including investments in capacity, workforce, and diverse systems of delivery. The state also established family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) support programs, including an advisory group that will make recommendations to the Department of Early Childhood.
In 2021, advocates in Illinois worked to pass HB2878, which created the Early Childhood Access Consortium for Equity (ECACE). Consisting of 63 higher education institutions across the state, the charge of the consortium is to develop and implement a statewide strategy to help incumbent early childhood educators, especially those from BIPOC and low-income communities, to attain higher degrees and credentials. Illinois advocates have been monitoring and supporting implementation of these efforts, which include cross-system articulation agreements, providing credit for prior learning and experience (including the CDA), and investing in navigators, coaches, mentors, and scholarships to help early childhood educators succeed in their higher education programs.
Revenue and Finance
State allies recognized that raising new revenue is essential if states are to sustain the changes made possible by federal relief funds. Kentucky allies reported on findings from a survey about the impact of the expiration of federal relief funds on ECE providers and families, which generated significant media attention on the issue. District of Columbia advocates worked with economic justice organizations to advance tax equity by increasing taxes on high-income individuals earning more than $250,000 a year.
In New Mexico, voters supported a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to increase distribution from the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund by 1.25 percent, with 60 percent of that increase dedicated to early childhood education. The state estimates an additional $123 million to fund ECE programs in 2023.
To help state allies access resources on revenue strategies, the Alliance hosted a huddle in collaboration with the Children’s Funding Project (CFP) that provided peer-to-peer support and learning on state revenue generation for early childhood issues. CFP also manages a resource center on the Alliance website where state allies can find timely resources to support their advocacy efforts.
The Alliance’s state allies also played defense this past year. Following the challenging effects of the pandemic on states’ ECE systems, some state policymakers attempted to relax standards and regulations around group size and adult-child ratios. If these relaxed standards are enacted, the workforce will continue to face challenges and negative impacts to children’s safety, staff retention, and the supply of care. The Alliance hosted a huddle with state advocates to discuss how to respond to this issue. State allies heard from our national partners at Child Care Aware of America and NAEYC who have produced great resources on this issue.
While many of these policy and program accomplishments will bring more equity to ECE systems, advocates increasingly embedded equity in how they do their work, creating space for early childhood educators themselves to become the leaders in crafting policies and becoming the voices for change. Advocates in Washington State are employing Liberatory Design principles to put early childhood educators at the center of the process for developing policy proposals around compensation. Traditional advocates and policy leaders play supportive roles and will be advancing these proposals with early childhood educators during the 2023 legislative session.
In March, advocates in Connecticut supported grassroots organizations and early childhood educators to organize a “Morning Without Child Care” where ECE programs opened late as part of a coordinated effort to bring attention to the country’s broken child care system. The event generated extensive media coverage and policymaker engagement, and eventually led to five new bills for child care funding that added $184 million in new funding to the FY23 budget.
In 2023, state allies will continue to work to transform their child care systems in the long term, and address the immediate challenges of a workforce shortage crisis and the looming $48 billion child care funding cliff with the expiration of the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) and other pandemic funding.
Multiple states took significant action to expand pre-kindergarten and/or improve the quality of current pre-kindergarten. Interestingly, much of the expansion of high-quality pre-k took place in the same states and in partnership with the expansion of quality child care. Policy makers continue to recognize that the success of pre-k and child care are linked. State legislatures are creating the statutory and financial means necessary to continue to expand access to high-quality pre-k.
Alabama approved a $22.5 million increase in Alabama First Class Pre-K, expanding access to 45 percent of eligible 4-year-olds. Delaware lawmakers approved a $20 million increase to Delaware’s Purchase of Care program in Fiscal Year 2023, a substantial boost in funding. And, $3.7 million will support additional pre-k slots in Wilmington.
In Hawaii, the legislature restored $7 million to the Preschool Open Doors subsidy, providing greater access to preschool programs for children the year before kindergarten. In Mississippi, an additional $8 million from the education enhancement fund was allocated to pre-k. Approved in funding rounds in January 2022, April 2022, and August 2022, the expansion means more than 6,800 total ELC students will be served in the 2022-23 school year.
The New Jersey state budget included $68 million for preschool expansion, $40 million of which is targeted to expand preschool in new school districts. Illinois made new investments in programs, including preschool, funded by the Early Childhood Block Grant (ECBG) at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
Louisiana now requires school districts to work toward offering year-round, full-day pre-k to all 4-year-olds, and Rhode Island passed legislation that requires the state to develop a plan to expand RI Pre-K to serve double the number of children ages 3 and 4 within five years within a high-quality, mixed delivery system and to develop recommendations regarding the coordination, governance, structure, administration, and financing of early childhood programs and the implementation of early childhood data systems. Virginia approved an additional $6.7 million to expand public/private options for state-aligned preschools through the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation’s mixed-delivery program.
Recruiting and maintaining the pre-kindergarten workforce has been challenging for school districts across the country. Training, retention, and professional development are all obstacles. States are using different strategies to support the pre-k workforce. Florida is looking to boost compensation for educators in the state’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) program. The Florida Legislature earmarked $52 million in recurring state funds to raise the base student allocation for VPK by $317 per child, including an additional $100 million for VPK programs that agree to raise VPK teacher pay to a minimum of $15 per hour. Georgia acted to invest $19.4 million to provide a $2,000 increase in the base salary of lead and assistant teachers in Georgia’s Pre-K program. This is particularly critical for assistant teachers who have been left out of significant increases in years past and currently make only a base rate of $16,190 annually regardless of their experience or education. Only about 70 percent of pre-k assistant teachers have been retained annually in recent years. The North Carolina Legislature appropriated an additional $9 million in recurring funds in the budget to increase its pre-k rate by 7 percent in FY 2023, for a total rate increase of 9 percent since the 2020-21 fiscal year. The appropriation will support teacher salaries in private program settings and includes funds designated to support pre-k in public school and Head Start settings. The Oregon Legislature moved to address disparities in suspensions and expulsions in pre-kindergarten and included $5.8 million for the Early Learning Division for the Early Childhood Suspension/Expulsion Prevention Program.
Family Economic Supports
Decades of family economic supports helped fuel a decline in child poverty, and now, states are taking up the charge to sustain it.
Family economic security is a critical factor in determining young child well-being, and the complexity of poverty makes untangling which policies reduce it difficult. Child Trends released a seminal analysis of child poverty in 2022 to answer that challenge, complete with state-by-state data.
Child poverty declined more than 50 percent in the past quarter-century: while one in four young children lived in poverty in 1993, by 2019, that number was one in 10. Poverty rates declined at similar rates for nearly all subgroups of children—by family structure, race/ethnicity, and immigration status—so existing disparities among those subgroups persisted.
Economic and demographic factors have a significant impact on poverty rates, but federal government benefit programs also played a critical role. The impact of the social safety net on poverty increased, and by 2019, government programs were reducing child poverty by 44 percent, safeguarding 6.5 million children. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Social Security, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were the three most powerful programs, while the impact of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has weakened over time.
The global pandemic that hit in early 2020 could have reversed those gains, but federal relief and recovery funds included direct transfers of cash to families through programs like the enhanced child tax credit, paid monthly to better meet families’ needs, and an expanded unemployment insurance benefits. These programs worked, and child poverty rates continued to fall.
Now, a federal funding cliff looms. While state governments allocate the last of the federal relief and recovery funding for K-12 education, early childhood education, and other needs, the end of the enhanced child tax credit in 2021 means that child poverty is already headed up—and disproportionately for children of color.
As emergency federal support for families wanes, Alliance state allies are advocating for their state legislatures to take up the mantle of fighting child poverty. Almost half the states reported a 2022 win on family economic security this session, and 27 percent reported a win on paid family and medical leave.*
State allies in Rhode Island and Connecticut used federal relief funds to extend pandemic-era child tax credits. Permanent tax credits were enacted in other states, including a refundable young-child tax credit in New Jersey, a state EITC refund in Virginia, and a $1,000 child tax credit in Vermont. Illinois increased and broadened eligibility for a state EITC. In Hawai’i, a big tent that included families, workers, advocates, and businesses helped seal the deal on a permanent—and refundable—state EITC and a higher minimum wage.
Vermont increased cash assistance to families, while Colorado worked to smooth the income “cliff” families experience when incomes rise and they lose access to benefits.
Big wins included statewide access to paid family and medical leave (PFML) in Maryland and Delaware.
Allies at New York’s Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy advocated for and successfully passed the NY State Child Poverty Reduction Act. They rolled out a strategy that included everything from op-eds to legislative testimony; building a powerful coalition, a deep bench of experts, and concentric circles of engagement; and directly educating policymakers.
Conversely, several states staved off efforts to reduce access to safety-net programs. Kansas allies fought a bill that increased administrative burden to apply for and receive Medicaid and food assistance. Kentucky advocates improved a public-assistance reform bill. Ohio advocates worked against a bill changing eligibility for SNAP, Medicaid, and unemployment assistance.
For more information on family economic security policies impacting young children and their families, watch the National Issues > State Action call from February 2022, or read about the huddle co-hosted with the Prenatal-to-Three Impact Center, ZERO TO THREE, and the Center for Law and Social Policy. In addition to New York, learn from allies in Arkansas, who were fighting a tax cut that would have been detrimental to low-income families, and New Mexico allies who were working on (and succeeding in getting) a state child tax credit, paid sick leave, and keeping families with young children housed.
There were numerous resources available to advocates pursuing family economic supports in 2022. The Alliance inventory of state policy levers shows how advocates can impact child and family poverty and the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center highlighted five state policies that can support families’ economic security. The National Conference of State Legislatures updated its compendia of state legislation on topics like the child tax credit and the Center for American Progress launched a new poverty data project that explores data at the state and Congressional district levels.
The National Center for Children in Poverty updated its state-by-state Early Childhood Policy Profiles, which reports where states are on key policies that combat child poverty.
Momentum is building in states around family economic security policies, triggered by the federal investments that kept so many families afloat during the pandemic. It’s also a place where some allies are finding bipartisan support. When the EITC proposal in Hawai’i hit a rough patch, allies got help from the state’s one Republican Senator, who spoke up in favor of the policy. His work as a school custodian and his sister’s experience as a waitress put him squarely on the side of the working-class family.
Alliance allies are stepping up to advocate on these issues. These highlights show what is possible when state partners work together in coalition, centering the lived experiences of families.
Though not enough to sustain pandemic-era federal funding, states are reporting encouraging increases to general fund appropriations.
While advocates worked to maximize the share of federal relief funding that went to support young children and their families, they continued to focus on important state general fund appropriations.
In our survey of state advocates from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, many reported success in achieving new state funding to support early childhood development. In fact, among all issues areas, 77 percent reported an increase in state funding.
Funding for early childhood development is notoriously difficult to disaggregate among state appropriations bills, so we asked our allies to consider previous state funding and the size of their state budget, and then describe changes (excluding federal dollars) as a relatively small or large increase, no change, or a decrease for each policy issue. Million-dollar increases are significant in small states, less so in large states, so these opinions were rooted in the scope and history of funding in each state. Collectively, these results show trends in states investments of general revenues, and in some cases we have actual dollar amounts.
The following results come from survey responses from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Child care: 26 percent reported a relatively small increase, and 22 percent reported a relatively large increase in state funding to improve quality and access to child care. Fifteen allies could estimate their state’s increased state appropriations in 2022. These totaled $1.24 billion, an average per state increase of $83 million.
Maternal and child health: 37 percent reported a relatively small increase, and 10 percent reported a relatively large increase in state funding to improve maternal and child health. Twenty allies could estimate their state’s increased state appropriations in 2022. These totaled $760 million, an average per state increase of $38 million.
Family economic security: Among all states and the District, 22 percent reported a relatively small increase, and 18 percent reported a relatively large increase in state funding devoted to family economic security. Fifteen allies could estimate their state’s increased state appropriations in 2022. These totaled over $4.7 billion, an average per state increase of over $315 million.
Pre-k: 22 percent reported a relatively small increase, and 26 percent reported a relatively large increase in state funding devoted to pre-kindergarten. Twenty-two allies could estimate their state’s increased state appropriations in 2022. These totaled over $1.8 billion, an average per state increase of almost $88.5 million.
Home visiting: 20 percent reported a relatively small increase, and 16 percent reported a relatively large increase in state funding to expand home visiting. Seventeen allies could estimate their state’s increased state appropriations in 2022. These totaled over $146.5 million, an average per state increase of $11.3 million.
K-3 Education: 14 percent reported a relatively small increase, and 26 percent reported a relatively large increase in state funding devoted to kindergarten through third-grade education. Fifteen allies could estimate increased state funding in 2022. Increases totaled more $9.4 billion, an average per state increase of almost $731 million.
Paid Family and Medical Leave: 12 percent reported a relatively small increase, and 4 percent reported a relatively large increase in state funding to expand PFML. Two allies could estimate increases in state funding in 2022. These totaled $87 million, an average per state increase of $43.5 million.
For state examples and policy details, select the tab for that issue or select a state from the map.
All is not smooth sailing.
Alliance state allies are tacking against strong headwinds to continue making progress for children and families. Pandemic effects linger, especially on child care systems and children’s mental health, and inflation is squeezing household budgets. While many states currently have surpluses because of federal relief and recovery dollars, legislatures are debating when and how federal dollars should be allocated, whether state dollars should go to tax relief or investment in services, and whether state investments in early childhood are even necessary, given the federal funds.
Advocates were buffeted when national leaders failed to include funds for early childhood in the federal reconciliation bill—many were hoping Congress would set the tone for investing in child care and pre-k. And allies in every state see the federal funding cliff on the horizon when the federal dollars run out.
Ten percent of states report that their governors are moderately or very opposed to improving policy for early childhood, and 21 percent report the same about their state legislatures.
And the tides continue to turn.
The November elections brought big turnover in state legislatures, including leadership, with moderates from both parties losing in the primaries. Our allies report they lost many early childhood champions who provided a bulwark against some of the culture war bills. Big classes of first-year legislators will require allies to dedicate more staff capacity to cultivating and educating new champions. Allies in states with divided power say increasingly that they need a red strategy and a blue strategy, rather than a bipartisan strategy.
Increasing political polarization means choppier waters, and state allies have to navigate more carefully than ever before. “Culture war” issues like critical race theory or “divisive concepts” bills, parental rights in education, abortion, vaccines, and gender identity are among those pulling attention away from core early childhood issues. In some states, they are even poisoning early childhood policy conversations.
State allies are tacking in response to these headwinds.
They are doing more administrative advocacy with state agencies, at the local level, and from a defensive posture. Some are distancing themselves from “culture-war” issues, while others choose to engage, and many are getting pulled in against their will by these political whirlpools. And allies are working to keep their decision-makers focused on the importance of continued state investment in early childhood, particularly as federal funding cliffs loom.
Louisiana advocates, led by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children (LPIC), mounted a campaign to keep social-emotional development in the state’s early learning standards when the State Superintendent threatened to remove it. LPIC and its coalition partners demystified the standard by educating members of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education—who approve the standards—about the medical basis for social-emotional development. The campaign brought infant specialists, pediatricians, business leaders, and conservative elected officials to speak to the Board during public comment about the importance of the standard. A prominent business leader said, “Social emotional development is not just a key component of childhood—it’s the foundation to adulthood and success in the workforce.” The State Board passed the standards, 8-2, but a legislative committee is preparing to bring up the same issue. As state partners gather their forces for this fresh challenge, LPIC Executive Director Libbie Sonnier warns, “Stay tuned, because it’s not over by a long shot.”
State allies named efforts to erode social-emotional development standards and efforts to undermine curricular content of pre-k to third grade education as a significant threat to their states’ young children this year, surpassed only by efforts to decrease quality of or access to child care. As one state ally put it, among legislators, “pragmatism is in retreat.”
A drop in pediatric appointments and regular well-child visits during the pandemic meant young children experienced reductions in access to preventive services, leading to a decline in vaccination rates. The pandemic also increased philosophical and political resistance to vaccinations, causing advocates in several states to mount defenses against legislation rolling back vaccination policies. The Kansas legislature was one of many that introduced bills to weaken or remove school and child care immunization requirements. Kansas Action for Children (KAC) partnered with Frontera Strategy to defeat these bills. They deployed data, strategic messaging, and key relationships in the legislature to counter the nationwide trend. (Congratulations to KAC’s Heather Braum, who received national recognition for this immunization advocacy work.) Our ally warns that anti-immunization bills continue to find traction among state leaders in Kansas, though. They are preparing for future challenges.
State allies will also be working to mitigate the effects of the end of the two-year Public Health Emergency (PHE), and the potential for significant loss of health care coverage when families must be re-evaluated for Medicaid and CHIP eligibility. The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) for states is outlining options to ease the impact of the end of the PHE, but many states have yet to prepare a PHE unwinding plan or commit dedicated state funds specifically to prepare for the end of the PHE. Advocates have pushed for lawmakers to set aside funds to prepare for the PHE unwinding, like advocates in Pennsylvania who supported the governor’s budget proposal to increase Medicaid funding. Ultimately, these funds did not make it into the final budget because of uncertainty around when federally mandated PHE will come to an end.
State allies know that long-term success during difficult political times requires not only action at the state house, but also a groundswell of demand for change from parents, practitioners, grassroots organizations, and community groups.