With only 90 days to accomplish its work, the Alaska State Legislature must hit the ground focused and prepared. A coalition of early childhood advocates, including Best Beginnings, has drafted recommendations to help public policy leaders develop a system of early learning that promotes school readiness, strong families, and a strong work force. The 2010 session begins Jan. 19, 2010.
Best Beginnings has been working steadily the past nine months to lay groundwork for the 2010 session of the Alaska State Legislature, which begins Jan. 19. With only 90 days to accomplish its work, the Legislature – and those with an active interest in the session’s outcome – must hit the ground focused and prepared.
A coalition of early childhood advocates, including Best Beginnings, has drafted recommendations to help public policy leaders develop a system of early learning that promotes school readiness, strong families, and a strong work force.
Though still in draft form, our policy recommendations include the following:
- Early childhood partnerships – Appropriate $1 million to support local priorities and strategies developed as a result of the needs and assets assessments done by the nine current partnerships. Community-based partnerships provide a statewide coordinated network needed to move decisions closer to those being served and to ensure best outcomes for young children.
- Imagination Library – Appropriate $400,000 to support children already enrolled until their 5th birthday and further expand the program to more children in more communities. Children who do not have some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years. Imagination Library helps children develop those skills.
- Denali Kid Care – Restore funding to 200% of Alaska’s federal poverty level. This change would restore eligibility to 1,300 children and 225 pregnant women. Children with access to preventive health care and developmental screenings have better outcomes for health and learning abilities throughout their lives.
- Access to quality care – Raise child care reimbursement rates to 75th percentile so more children have access to quality programs. Change eligibility requirements so that families qualify if they make up to 85% of state median income. This enables parents to enter or stay in the work force.
- Home Visiting – Establish research-based, voluntary, early childhood home visiting programs in Alaska, such as Parents as Teachers, with universal access for families with children, prenatal to kindergarten entry.
- Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) – Begin implementation of an Alaska QRIS, which is an organized method to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early care and education settings outside the home. The system would provide a roadmap for individual early learning programs to improve their quality of care, thereby increasing parent access to a larger supply of quality options. It would also provide greater accountability for public investments in the early care and education system.
- Professional Development and Retention of Early Educators – Increase reimbursements for college child development courses and reinstate awards that recognize and incentivize teachers with credentials in early education. This would also support Head Start staff in meeting federally mandated teacher qualification requirements. There is a direct relationship between teacher preparation and quality of early care and education for children.
It is significant – and critical to our eventual success – that early childhood advocates are speaking with one voice on these issues. Working in concert is part and parcel of creating the network and system we envision.