The Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families is becoming a respected voice for independent information, research and information for policy makers, stakeholders and the public at large around issues related to early childhood in Louisiana. The Partnership’s position this Session was defensive--not introducing any bills but working to make the bills introduced by others better, and to defend the tax credits. Critical proposed legislation:
School Readiness Tax Credits.
SRTC remained whole and will not be changed before 2015. There were a number of bills that would have reduced them, changed them by way of statute, or allowed BESE to change them by regulation, and all were defeated or amended. Ultimately, only House Bill 698 passed. It preserves the current credits and essentially provides that a statute will be introduced in the 2015 Session to align the credits with the new rating system.
Senate Bill 130, Implementation of Act 3.
Died in the House. The reason for its failure may have had little to do with the bill’s content. The Partnership was concerned that the bill contained verbiage suggesting elimination of the current Quality Start system and continued to allude to a system based on child outcomes (although it did also refer to assessing the “quality” of “programs”). It also continued the concept of assigning programs a letter grade. The Partnership was also concerned that SB 130 repealed the LA 4 statute that specified the quality components of that program and provided for a statewide enrollment system. By contrast, SB 130 also contained some excellent provisions including allowing child care centers to apply directly to the state for LA 4 (and not through school districts), a provision of four years before a program could lose its funding based on its rating, the recognition that the Network includes children from birth to age 5, a provision that allowed centers not taking public funding to be able to participate in the Network, a mandate to align the funding requirements of the early childhood programs, a requirement that BESE submit all plans and recommendations to implement the Network to BrightStart, CCAL and the Non-Public School Council, and that beginning December 2013, BESE would be required to report to these entities regarding the progress of the Network semi-annually. Many of these provisions were included/added due to the Partnership’s advocacy.
Although SB 130 died, Act 3 is still the law and most of the provisions of SB 130 can be enacted through regulation. However, unlike Act 3, SB 130 did specify that BESE shall allocate funding to members of the Network based on the rating system. Furthermore, the rating system is not supposed to actually begin to rate centers until the 2014 school year and there will be another session before then. The delay may provide opportunities for advocacy, and for the pilots to inform the policies that will ultimately be enacted as they were.
Senate Bill 222, Revamp of child care licensure.
Passed. - The original bill de-licensed Class B centers and created two levels of licensure for what is currently Class A, including a category for publicly funded programs requiring their participation on the Network and the rating system.
The bill went through over 100 amendments during the process. Ultimately what passed maintains licensure of Class B centers, which will now be called “Type I” and limits Class B in the future to only church and religious organizations while grandfathering in current non-church Class B centers. It creates a Level II license for current Class A centers that do not take public funding (Level II may participate in the food program), and creates a Type III license for current Class A centers that take public funds. Type III centers must meet the performance and academic standards of the Network and the new rating system.
The bill provides for a working group to provide input on the new regulations establishing Type I, II and III licenses and it must approve the new regs. The members of that group include a representative from BrightStart, CCAL, the nonpublic school council, the Head Start Association, DCFS, LDOE, the Children’s Cabinet and the governor’s office. The bill specifies that the group “shall include participants having expertise in care of infants and toddlers, pediatric health, pediatric mental health, cognitive development and social emotional development.” It also provides that a draft of the regs will be provided to the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, Children’s Defense Fund, and the LAEYC for review and comment by November 1, 2013.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 76.
Passed. It urges and requests DCFS and LDOE to determine the feasibility of developing an operational plan for the transfer of the Child Care Development Fund lead agency authority and associated functions (meaning perhaps to include licensing of child care centers) to the Department of Education no later than July 1, 2015, and to submit a plan to the House and Senate Committees on Education and Health and Welfare no later than 60 days before session.
HB 1, The Budget, Amendment # 282
HB 1, The Budget, Amendment # 282 provides that on page 201 of the budget, between lines 35 and 36, the following verbiage be inserted: “Payable out of the State General Fund by Interagency Transfers from the Department of Children and Family Services to the District Support Program for the Early Childhood Education, Quality Improvement, and Head Start Programs. $ 9,777,865.” It is unclear at this writing if this amendment is contained in the final version of HB 1. It is also unclear whether this is supposed to be the Quality Component of the Child Care Block Grant (CCDF) because it refers to State General Funds.