Legislators heard from Alaskans across the state through e-mails, phone calls, personal visits, and testimony at committee hearings, advocating for programs, services, and initiatives that support young children and their families. Why does it matter? Because they all contribute to achieving the Best Beginnings vision: All Alaska children begin school ready to succeed.
There is exciting news to share about several Best Beginnings activities! The English version of the Early Learning Guidelines activity guides has just been published, and the Yup’ik version is nearly ready to go to the printer. We released a request for applications for early childhood local partnerships last month, and are pleased to have received 13 responses from across the state. Successful applicants will be announced shortly. And the number of Alaska children who receive a free book in the mail each month through Imagination Library continues to grow.
There were successes with our advocacy efforts with the Legislature this session, too. As we have done for the previous two sessions, Best Beginnings joined with early childhood colleagues to advocate for agreed-upon public policy issues.
One of those items was a request for $400,000 to support Best Beginnings’ work in three areas:
- Expanding Imagination Library
- Developing local partnerships
- Supporting our public engagement campaign
Legislators heard from Alaskans across the state through e-mails, phone calls, personal visits, and testimony at committee hearings. Thanks to that support, the Senate Finance Committee included $200,000 in the budget for Best Beginnings. While we were disappointed it was half the requested amount, it is a good start, and we look forward to continuing the discussions with legislators.
Other successes include:
- Head Start – $600,000 increase in funding
- Pilot PreK Project – $2 million (successful applicants should be announced soon)
- Home Visiting Program – HB69 gained momentum and bipartisan support, was passed by the House Education Committee, and will be considered next session.
Two other items on the early childhood priority list received attention:
- Proposed budget increases for Early Intervention/Infant Learning Program and supporting higher child care reimbursement rates were zeroed out during the budget process. Stimulus funds may be available for these programs.
- Denali KidCare was the subject of several bills. There is widespread support for increasing eligibility from 175% to 200% of poverty level, and this will be considered again next session.
Why do these issues matter? Because they all contribute to achieving the Best Beginnings vision: All Alaska children begin school ready to succeed.