News   |   Sign Up   |   A LEVER FOR SCALE

Child Care NEXT 2023 Progress Snapshot: Laying the Foundation for Transformative Policy and Funding Wins

Since the Child Care NEXT initiative cohort was announced in the summer of 2021, state coalitions have been making foundational progress on their coalitions and transformation plans. This work is about building a large, durable constituency for child care in a state, so much of the early work is on building a coalition infrastructure that aligns with the core principles and collective power milestones of the initiative.

Child Care NEXT was designed as a long-term investment in state campaigns and coalition building around child care. We know that it takes time to change the political conditions and culture that will allow transformative reforms to be considered, become policy, take root, and be sustained. To begin that journey, state coalitions have taken steps to:  

    • Cultivate governors and legislators as vocal champions 
    • Reframe child care from a private responsibility to a public good that all families should benefit from 
    • Advance bold proposals and secure pivotal wins that signal the scale of change and investments that are needed in the future 

During the first years of the pandemic, the Virginia Promise Partnership (VPP) made significant progress in cultivating bipartisan political support for their ultimate goal: ensuring all Virginia families have access to affordable quality child care by 2030. In 2021, they began developing a policy roadmap to reach the bold goal. VPP engaged providers, parents and member organizations and identified shared values, principles, and vision before outlining the policies and investments necessary to close gaps for Virginia families. After the November 2021 elections resulted in a change in leadership in both the House of Delegates and the Governor’s office, the partnership assessed what the change in Virginia’s political landscape meant for the roadmap and how to best position it for success. 

Recognizing the new governor’s values and priorities, VPP adjusted some of the language used in the roadmap without changing or walking back on any of the policy priorities, principles, or vision. VPP worked to dial-up messaging around parental choice and voice–central issues in the election–as well as the important role of quality ECE in improving school readiness for students and enabling parents to rejoin the workforce. More specifically, they emphasized the link between early childhood education and success in the early grades. 

Together, these adjustments in messaging expanded bipartisan support and buy-in, and helped position child care as an issue that the new Governor could (and did) support. These efforts were largely successful: rather than pivoting away from early care and education because it was a priority of the previous Democratic administration, the new Republican governor has instead championed additional early education investments in the state budget.  In fact, the governor publicly stated his belief that the proposed budget from the legislature in 2022 didn’t have enough investments in ECE. With support from the new governor, the legislature appropriated more than $130 million for ECE for FY23 and FY24, including $73 million to expand eligibility for child care subsidies and increase payments based on cost methodology, $46 million to expand the Virginia Preschool Initiative, and $7 million to expand the Mixed Delivery preschool program. 

During the 2023 legislative session, the Governor and House proposed an additional $20 million to expand ECCE services in their budgets while the Senate included $40 million plus $80 million in contingent funding for child care subsidy. Budget negotiations paused due to potential recession/financial uncertainty but a compromise is anticipated in late June, following the state primaries.     

For Growing Our Future, the Child Care NEXT coalition from Colorado, respect and support for home-based providers, including “family, friend, and neighbor” caregivers (FFN), is critical to their vision for “ensuring every family in Colorado has equitable access to affordable, high-quality, developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate child care in the setting of their choosing.” As their state establishes a new cabinet-level agency for early care and education and implements a new universal preschool initiative, the coalition ensured that home-based providers remain at the center of the evolving ECE landscape. In 2022, the coalition won $7.5 million of federal relief funding dedicated to training and support programs for FFN providers. The same bill created an FFN advisory group to advise the new ECE agency on changes in regulations, policies, and funding that would impact those providers. Finally, the coalition ensured that the broader advisory council for the agency included meaningful representation of early childhood educators, providers, and parents. In the end, at least 4 of the 15 members represented these grassroots voices, including one FFN provider and one licensed family child care provider. 

In 2022, the bold vision from the Empire State Campaign for Child Care inspired a legislative champion to organize a listening tour across the state and introduced a bill for “universal child care” that would have appropriated $5 billion to the state’s child care budget. While the bill didn’t pass, it was a subject of much debate and media attention. In the end, the coalition did win about $1 billion of new investments for child care for FY23. Of that increase, approximately $732 million went into the subsidy system. This increase allowed the state to expand eligibility for child care subsidies from 200% to 300% of poverty, increase reimbursement rates for providers, and continue the cap on parent co-pays statewide at 10% of income over the federal poverty level.  

In 2023, ESCCC secured additional eligibility expansions to 85% of SMI and a statewide cap of co-pays at 1% of income over the FPL.  The state also will now pay for up to 80 absences per year per child on child care assistance, essentially adopting payment based on enrollment. The Governor pledged $7 billion in state investment in child care over four years. Just as important, the coalition fundamentally shifted the public conversation about how the state should support child care, policymakers’ understanding of the magnitude of the problem and solution needed, and advocates’ perception of what’s possible.  

All six Child Care NEXT state coalitions are beginning to see the early fruits of their work—and what is possible in the future.  

Stay in the loop by joining the Alliance news and invitations list: