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Governors Show Support for Young Children in their State-of-the-State Addresses and Budgets

The Alliance for Early Success believes that protecting or making progress in early childhood investments depends largely on state leadership. Governors have a lot of discretion over how to allocate, maximize, or misuse resources. And their policies will either support or harm young children; and either help or prevent their families from becoming independent, successful and secure.

In November 2018, voters cast ballots to elect governors in 36 states. We supported our partners to get candidates on record and hold them accountable for effective early childhood policies and increased resources. Early childhood advocates and leaders went into high gear to educate, inform, and shape policy platforms. With assistance from staff at the National Governors Association who have been collecting information on what governors have been saying on education since last summer, we took a look at what governors said about early childhood in their State of the State addresses and budget documents.[i]

So what happened?

After reviewing the data, we identified at least 40 out of 50 Governors who mentioned policies related to young children. We’ll take that hit rate as a win, but we won’t rest for a moment until we get the others on board!

Funding. 32 of the 40 governors recommended increasing access and/or quality for early childhood programs. Proposals included expanding child care, pre-k, home visiting, early intervention and special needs services, kindergarten, the early grades, workforce supports, increased compensation, increased eligibility to subsidized child care, increases in provider rates, and support for Quality Rating Improvement Systems (QRIS).

Quality. 23 of the 40 governors cited quality as the key to ensuring effective investments in child care, pre-k, home visiting and the workforce. Four governors mentioned  investing in their Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS).

Pre-K. 26 of the 40 governors talked about pre-k, which makes it the most commonly mentioned early childhood education topic. Recommendations included funding for teachers, such as increasing their professional development and salaries, expanding facilities, expanding full day kindergarten, increasing reimbursement rates, and developing tiered reimbursement rates. Of these 26 governors who talked about pre-k, 8 described their current investments as steps toward making it universal.

Child Welfare. 19 of the 40 governors talked about a range of ideas related to child welfare, including increasing child protective service workers, coordinating child welfare services with other child serving systems, modernizing technology and information systems to improve data collection, and funding for the increased number of children in out of home placements due to the opioid crisis.

Workforce. 15 of the 40 governors talked about workforce strategies such as increased compensation and subsidy rates, merit-based adjustments, reducing turnover, investments in TEACH and other college-based education, professional development, coaches, financial aid for staff, and trauma-informed practices.

Home Visiting. 9 of the 40 governors mentioned expanding investments to improve outcomes for low-income mothers and their children, prevent adverse childhood experiences, and connect families to other supportive services.

Medicaid Expansion. 8 of the 40 governors discussed Medicaid expansion, including 3 states that had not previously approved this strategy. Governors in the other 5 states recommended continuing or adding additional coverage to increase eligibility or add new benefits such as treatment for opioid addiction.

Paid Family or Parental Leave. 7 of the 40 governors mentioned paid family leave or parental leave. One governor has a goal of ensuring all newborns and newly adopted babies can be cared for by a parent or close family member for the first six months. Governors mentioned taxes and tax incentives as ways of financing these plans.

Visit our website under the resource tab to find which governors and states called out these specific issues.

Rest assured that aside from getting early childhood on the radar, we are supporting advocacy to hold governors (and legislators) accountable for their promises. Check out our Listserv and website in the next few weeks for a recap of state legislative sessions.

Onward Ho with the Wildest of Patience.

Lisa Klein and Gail Nourse


[i] The National Governors Association (NGA) collects and analyzes information from public statements made by governors related to education policy and indexes these statements using a qualitative data analysis tool. NGA provided the Alliance with quotations from State of the State addresses and governors’ budget documents related to topics identified by the Alliance.

* Mentioned Universal Pre-K as a goal

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