Makala Graves Says Farewell

MakalaGravesFor most college students the arrival of summer means relaxation, the stressful all night studying comes to a cease, and they spend their time poolside, soaking up the sun, and the thought of work or school does not cross their mind until the fall semester comes back around.

However, for some students, like myself, both anxious and indecisive, and looking to gain real-world experience, we spent our summer interning.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern in the Nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. (Well, Arlington, Virginia…still pretty close) with Child Care Aware® of America’s (CCAoA) policy team, and I can honestly say that my experience has been nothing less the phenomenal!

As long as I can remember, my parents have drilled the importance of my future into my brain, and as a rising junior in college it is finally starting to stick. My past years of college have been filled with trying and getting to know different fields of study, and liking but never loving really any of them. This past semester, after taking political science and social work classes it all clicked for me, I realized I wanted to advocate but had no idea how to mix advocating with my love of politics and public relations. This dilemma motivated my search to find an internship where I could hone both of these interests, and that’s when I came across Child Care Aware® of America.

After interviewing with Child Care Aware® of America, I knew this is exactly where I needed to be. I cannot describe my first week in the office as anything less fascinating. My first day was spent on Capitol Hill where I got to listen to important briefings and government issues, and report back to my bosses, and I can say every day following has been just as great as the first.

I am very proud and thankful to be a part of it what Child Care Aware® of America is doing. The work done at CCAoA is extremely fulfilling, everyone is extremely passionate about their work here, and as an intern it is only motivation to work harder. During this summer internship, I have been given the opportunity to work on government documents, advocate for the importance of affordable and quality child care for families, and enjoy some of the best food places in Arlington with intern lunches!

What I have learned from my summer with Child Care Aware® of America is invaluable – this internship has turned out to be one of the best summers of my life, and has assured me that this is the work I want to do.

I am extremely thankful to Child Care Aware® of America, especially the policy team, for giving me such a wonderful experience. What I learned here will stick with me for a lifetime!

Reauthorization of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)

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The reauthorization of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) has a congressional Fall deadline. The CACFP is a federal program serving more than 3 million children in child care, Head Start, and after school programs across the country. With more science and academic reports explaining the benefits of healthy diets for kids, Congress will need to appropriately fund the program in order to ensure access to quality and nutritious foods for all children.

Today, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the ‘Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act for 2015’ which would reduce the CACFP area eligibility from 50 percent to 40 percent to streamline access and expand eligibility to include more low-income children, give child care centers and family child care centers with the option of serving a reimbursable third meal, and increase the reimbursement rate for CACFP sponsoring organizations.

The science is there and statistics have proven that healthy, nutritious meals directly impact children’s ability to learn, cognitive development, physical development, emotions and social skills.

As child care providers, educators and community leaders we would encourage you to get involved by asking your member of Congress to support the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act for 2015.

Learn more about the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act for 2015 and share with your friends, family and colleagues.

Want to take action? FRAC has a toolkit you can use to schedule a visit for your member of Congress at a local CACFP site near you. Representatives are more likely to support and fund these programs if they see the work they do up close!

Senate Approves Bi-Partisan Overhaul of No Child Left Behind

Earlier today, the Senate approved the “Every Child Achieves Act” (S. 1177) with an 81-17 vote. S. 1177 would replace No Child Left Behind and would retain some features of the current law, including standardized testing, but overall S. 1177 would give more flexibility to states and reduce the Federal government’s role in the nation’s education policy.

The “Every Child Achieves Act” includes a proposal to authorize a new early education grant to states to improve early childhood education coordination, quality, and access, and would specifically target resources for low- and moderate-income families.  Additionally, S. 117 creates a new literacy program that includes a set-aside for early learning initiatives.

Shortly before the Senate approved the bill, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) offered an amendment authorizing the Preschool Development Grants program, as well as the “Strong Start for America’s Children Act.”  The amendment failed on a 45-52 vote.

At this time, it’s unclear what the next steps are with regards to sending a final bill to President Obama.  boypaintingWhile the Senate bill represents a strong, bi-partisan agreement, the House bill, which barely passed last week, is much different and proposes far more drastic changes to the country’s K-12 education policy.  The House version, known as the “Student Success Act,” goes much further in eliminating the Federal government’s role in holding schools accountable, especially for low-income districts.

While President Obama has expressed concerns about the Senate-passed measure, he has threatened to veto the House version.  However, this should not be interpreted that the President would sign S. 1177.

Congressional leaders could reach a compromise between the House and Senate bills, but it seems very unlikely that a majority of House Republicans would support this.  Therefore, House Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH), would need the support of nearly the entire Democratic caucus and some Republicans to approve such a bill.  However, this would be a violation of the “Hastert Rule,” which is the legislating principle that any bill should be able to pass with a House Republican majority.  Even if a compromise bill clears the House, it could face the threat of a filibuster in the Senate.

We will continue to monitor this and keep you updated.

Child Care and ECD Update: A Major Fight Looms Over Funding for Next Year

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This week, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending measures, which is the legislation that provides annual funding for child care and early child development programs. As expected, both committees rejected the President’s major child care proposals.

The Senate bill includes a $150 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which is to be dedicated towards costs associated with the new requirements under the 2014 law. The House version of this bill, which the Appropriations Committee approved on June 24, does not propose any increase in CCDBG funding for next year. However, both the House and Senate versions proposed increases for Head Start, including $192 million in the House and $100 million in the Senate. The increased funding would be dedicated towards expanding the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Program.

While it may come as welcoming news that child care and early child development programs will likely receive an increase in funds next year, it’s important to point out that neither bill would end the sequester or raise the budget caps established in the FY 2016 Congressional Budget Resolution.  Therefore, a considerable number of children could lose access to these programs if Congress does not restore funding before completing a final bill. In addition, both chambers proposed deep cuts to critical health and education programs, and eliminated certain programs including Preschool Development Grants.

The next steps on this legislation is unclear, but with President Obama likely vetoing any bill that doesn’t restore at least some of the proposed spending cuts, it’s next to impossible that an agreement between Congress and the White House will be reached by October 1, 2015.

We will keep you updated, and you can view the House bill here, and the details of the Senate bill here.

House Passes Bipartisan Measure to Extend Health Insurance and Home Visiting Programs for Children

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation that would extend child care and early child development programs that support millions of families.

The extension of these programs was included in the “Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015,” (H.R. 2), which is legislation aimed at ending the sustainable growth rate, also known as the “doc-fix,” used for calculating doctor’s payments for Medicare.

H.R. 2 includes a two-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance coverage to nearly 8 million low-income children. Funding for CHIP was scheduled to expire this September if Congress did not act, which would have put many children at considerable risk of losing health care coverage. In addition to the extension of funding, H.R. 2 would also raise the Federal match to CHIP by 23% on October 1, 2015.175517670

H.R. 2 also includes a two-year extension ($400 million annually) for the Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. MIECHV is a Federal-state partnership that provides critical support for pregnant women and families, as well as helps new, low-income parents access resources to help their children develop physically, socially, and emotionally to prepare them for kindergarten.

Congress will be in recess for the next two weeks. President Obama supports H.R. 2 and the Senate is expected to address the bill when it returns on April 13, 2015. Final passage is not certain but it’s likely, and since the current “doc-fix” Medicare cuts expire on March 31, the Senate will need to move quickly when it reconvenes.

The New Congress Releases its Budget Proposals

2016_budget_headerEarlier this week, the House and Senate Budget Committees approved their FY 2016 budget resolutions, and both proposed very deep cuts for many non-defense programs over the next ten years, including ones that millions of children and families depend on.

A congressional budget resolution serves as a blueprint for the appropriations process, which is expected to begin later this spring. The resolution includes various proposals on taxes, and both mandatory and discretionary spending, and offers projections and forecasts beyond the upcoming fiscal year (known as “out years”). The President does not sign a budget resolution, and while a completed resolution technically binds Congress, it’s not a law.

The House resolution, which was authored by Chairman Tom Price (R-GA), proposes to slash spending by $5.5 trillion over 10 years, while the Senate Budget Committee Chair, Mike Enzi (R-WY), included a $4.5 trillion reduction in his proposal.

Although not final, the House budget proposes cutting $140 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Senate would eliminate $137 billion in its proposal. Additionally, both the House and Senate budgets would convert SNAP to a block grant, where states would receive a fixed amount of funding every year for nutritional assistance needs, which would lead to a significant number of families losing benefits.

Both resolutions also repeal the Affordable Care Act and propose massive cuts to Medicaid, which could result in millions of children and families losing access to quality health insurance.

While both proposals have limited specifics at this time, the drastic cuts to domestic spending could significantly harm crucial child care and early education programs.

Both resolutions are expected to be voted on next week, followed by a possible House-Senate conference agreement by April 15th. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) intends to offer an amendment to the Senate budget resolution protecting early education programs on the Senate floor. We will make sure to provide details throughout the process.

Oklahoma CCR&R Director to Testify at House Committee Hearing on CCDBG Reauthorization

The House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by Representative John Kline (R-MN) recently announced that the Committee will hold a hearing on CCDBG Reauthorization after the Senate approved legislation by a vote of 96-2 to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program.

Chairman Kline released this statement following the passage of the Senate bill:

“Senate passage of legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant is a step forward in the shared goal of strengthening the nation’s existing network of early childhood services. The bill includes several commonsense provisions that will help empower parents and enhance coordination between CCDBG and other federal early care programs, such as Head Start. The committee will convene a hearing on March 25, 2014 to examine House priorities for CCDBG, and I look forward to a productive discussion as we work to find common ground and complete the reauthorization of this important program.”

During the hearing, the Committee members will hear from 4 panelists, including Paula Koos, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Child Care Resource & Referral Association, Inc.

The hearing will take place on March 25th, 2014 at 10am Eastern. 

To learn more about the hearing, click here.

To watch a live webcast of the hearing, click here.

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes CCDBG Reauthorization Bill: Day 2 Recap

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 11.21.44 PMIn an effort to significantly improve the quality of child care across the nation and to prove that it is possible for the Senate to work in regular order, in a bipartisan manner.  By a vote of 96-2, the Senate approved S.1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, turning the focus over to the House of Representatives for action.

The Senators voting in favor of passage for the bill included 53 Democrats, 42 Republicans, and 2 Independents.  Only Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) voted against the measure, while Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) did not vote on the bill.

Throughout the second day of Senator floor consideration for S.1086, the Senate adopted 10 amendments covering a wide-range of topics related to the bill.  Nine of the amendments were adopted by voice vote, while only one of the amendments was adopted by a roll call vote, Senator Coburn’s measure to help ensure that child care assistance is not being supplied to those with an income greater than $1 million annually.

The country has definitely taken notice as the passage of the bipartisan S.1086 has led headlines. To read more about the media’s take on the passage of the bill, check out this article from Politico – Senate passes child care bill

While passage out of the Senate was an important step forward to improving the quality of child care, the process is far from finished as the House of Representatives will be pressured to take action.  The good news is that the prospects coming out of the House Education and the Workforce Committee have seemingly increased the odds that CCDBG Reauthorization will be looked at in this upcoming year.

Today, immediately following the passage of S.1086 out of the Senate, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-MN) released this statement:

“Senate passage of legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant is a step forward in the shared goal of strengthening the nation’s existing network of early childhood services. The bill includes several commonsense provisions that will help empower parents and enhance coordination between CCDBG and other federal early care programs, such as Head Start. The committee will convene a hearing on March 25, 2014 to examine House priorities for CCDBG, and I look forward to a productive discussion as we work to find common ground and complete the reauthorization of this important program.”

This is a huge win for working families in this country.  This bill contains many common-sense measures for helping protect children in child care, such as requiring providers to undergo comprehensive background checks, ensuring annual inspections are conducted and requiring childcare providers receive training on CPR, first aid, and safe sleep practices.

We are one step closer to ensuring children are safe and receiving quality early learning experiences while in child care. The research is clear, children’s early years are proven to be the most important time to create strong learners. This bill sets the standard families expect for their children.

Please join us to thank the Senate for standing up for children and working families by voting yes to reauthorize CCDBG.

Click here to thank your Senator for voting Yes on S.1086

Senate Takes Up CCDBG Reauthorization: Day 1 Recap

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) kicked off the floor action on the bill earlier this morning and stated, “In the two decades since this important program was last authorized, we’ve learned a great deal about the importance of early childhood education and high-quality child care. This bipartisan measure builds on that knowledge, it updates health and safety standards for child-care centers and requires providers to undergo comprehensive background checks.”  After moving onto roll-call votes for nominations and finishing those votes, the four Senators leading the effort took the floor for their opening remarks:

Excerpts from the remarks:

“Each year, the Child Care and Development Block Grant program helps more than 1.5 million low-income children nationwide, including 39,000 in Tennessee, have the kind of early learning and care that can help put them on the same starting line as other children.  The program works because it supports parents going to work or getting an education, and gives them the freedom to choose the child care that is right for their family.”-       Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

“Every family in America with children is concerned about child care. They wonder if it’s available. They wonder if it’s affordable. They worry if it’s safe. And they’re also concerned if it helps their children be ready to learn.  These worries weigh heavily on the shoulders of parents everywhere. Our bill helps lift that burden – giving families and children the child care they need.  This bill, as I said, is the product of bipartisan effort.  Child care is something all families worry about regardless of zip code or income. This bill ensures that all children have the care that they need and deserve. What we did was focus on what these needs are. “       Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the rest of the speech in its entirety can be seen here.

Senator Richard Burr’s (R-NC) Floor Speech in its entirety can be seen here.

Status of Amendments:

As a bipartisan bill from the beginning, working through regular order, S. 1086 has become seen as a beacon of hope for the Senate to return to regular order as the norm, not the exception.  To encourage participation throughout the Upper Chamber, Senators Burr and Mikulski pushed their colleagues to submit related amendments to the bill for a quality discussion on where the bill could stand to improve.  By day’s end, the number of submitted amendments for S.1086 totaled around 20, with some already receiving debate and votes.  The following list will provide background on the amendment, the sponsors of that amendment, and whether any action was taken on that amendment.

The Amendments:
 
No.  2805
Sponsors: Fischer (R-NE), King (I-ME), Rubio (R-FL)
Summary: Would limit the Food and Drug Administration’s ability to regulate non-diagnostic medical software
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2807
Sponsors: Gillibrand (D-NY)
Summary:  Would allow for tax deduction of child care expenses of up to $7,000 for 1 qualifying child and up to $14,000 for 2 or more qualifying children.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2808
Sponsors: Murphy (D-CT)
Summary:  Would increase dollar limitation on tax exclusion for employer-provided dependent care assistance.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2809
Sponsors: Boxer (D-CA), Burr (R-NC)
Summary: Would amend Section 231 of the Crime Control Act of 1990 by enhancing background check requirements for individuals working with children.  The Boxer/Burr Amendment would apply the same comprehensive background check requirement to federal lands that S. 1086 requires of states.
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2810
Sponsors: Boxer (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY)
Summary:  Would make changes to the IRS Tax Code by provides increases to the Employer-provided Child Care Credit and the Dependent Care Credit, creating a new credit for individuals holding child care-related degrees who work in licensed child care facilities, and a credit for providers who meet certain measures.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2811
Sponsors: Harkin (D-IA)
Summary: Would clarify “rural and remote areas” as underserved populations.
Actions: Submitted, Harkin (D-IA) submitted substitute, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2812
Sponsors:  Enzi (R-WY)
Summary:  Would require the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Department of Education to conduct a review of all early learning and care programs to develop a plan to eliminate duplicative and overlapping programs and make recommendations for streamlining all programs.  Report would be due to Congress within 1 year of enactment.
Actions:  Adopted 98-0
 
No.  2813
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Grassley (R-IA), Inhofe (R-OK)
Summary:  Would allow children in foster care to receive services under the CCDBG Act while their families (including foster families) are taking necessary action to comply with immunization and other health and safety
Actions:  Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2814
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Blunt (R-KS), Inhofe (R-OK)
Summary:  Would require the state plan to describe how the state will coordinate the services supported to carry out the CCDBG Act with state agencies and programs serving children in foster care and the foster families of such children
Actions:  Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2815
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Inhofe (R-OK)
Summary: Would require the state plan to describe how the state will develop and       implement strategies to increase the supply and improve the quality of child care with state agencies and programs serving children in foster care and the foster families of such children.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2816
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA)
Summary:  Would require each child care staff member providing direct services to children has earned a degree, which may be an associate’s degree or a baccalaureate degree, in early childhood education or a closely related field; and on and after a provided date, the child care provider will hire only individuals who have earned that degree.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2817
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA)
Summary:  Would not more than 1% be reserved for the Secretary to conduct a “Quality and effectiveness evaluation,” which would evaluate the quality and effectiveness of activities carried out, using scientifically valid research methodologies, in order to increase the understanding of State and local program administrators concerning the practices and strategies most likely to produce positive outcomes.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2818
Sponsors: Landrieu (D-LA), Mikulski (D-MD)
Summary:  Would require that the State plan shall demonstrate the manner in which the State will address the needs of children in child care services provided through programs authorized under this subchapter, including the need for safe child care, during the period before, during, and after a state of emergency declared by the Governor or a major disaster or emergency.  Would include a statewide child care disaster plan for coordination of activities and collaboration between among the State agency with jurisdiction over human services, the agency with jurisdiction over State emergency planning, the State lead agency, the State agency with jurisdiction over licensing of child care providers, the local resource and referral organizations, the State resource and referral system, and the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care.
Actions: Adopted 98-0
 
No.  2819
Sponsors: Scott (R-SC)
Summary: To clarify that nothing in this bill shall be construed or applied in any manner that would favor or promote the use of grants and contracts over the use of child care certificates; or that would disfavor or discourage the use of such certificates for the purchase of child care services, including those services provided by private or nonprofit entities, such as faith-based provider.
Actions:  See Senate Amendment no. 2837.
  
 
No.  2820
Sponsors: Lee (R-UT)
Summary: Would require each parent, who applies for assistance for child care services for a child to include the name and valid identification number of the child on the application, which could include a social security number issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration.
Actions: Submitted, no vote currently scheduled
 
No.  2821
Sponsors: Lee (R-UT)
Summary:  Would prohibit states from reporting information to the federal government that contains personally identifiable information
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2822
Sponsors: Franken (D-MN)
Summary: Would set aside at least 2 percent of funds appropriated each fiscal year for Child Care and Development Block Grants for payments to American Indian tribes and tribal organizations.
Actions: Adopted 93-6
 
No.  2824
Sponsors: Bennett (D-CO)
Summary: Would require states that combine funding for child care block grants with other federal early childhood education programs — including Head Start and programs assisting low-income children, those that are homeless or those with disabilities — to describe how it will they will use the combined funding.
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
 
No.  2837
Sponsors: Scott (R-SC)
Summary: See Senate Amendment no. 2819
Actions: Adopted by Voice Vote
 

Tomorrow’s Floor Schedule and Timing

The Senate will reconvene Thursday morning at 9:30am and continue voting on amendments.  Although Senate Majority Leader Reid mentioned that the vote may not occur until next week, Senators Burr and Mikulski have strongly stated that they expect the vote to happen Thursday around 2:00pm Eastern.  We will keep you updated with all of the relevant information as it comes available.

To keep up with the action as it happens, you can watch the C-SPAN feed here or follow our twitter feed at @usachildcare.

It’s your last chance to let your Senators know that they need to support S.1086.

Take Action Now!

Child Care Aware of America Travels to the Golden State

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The staff on-site from Child Care Aware® of America included Director of Policy Michelle Noth McCready, Senior Government Affairs Associate Nick Vucic, and Communications and Public Affairs Specialist Sara Miller.

After introductions by the advocates, displaying the wide-range of backgrounds and professions present, the Child Care Aware® of America staff dove right into the complex topic of Advocacy vs. Lobbying.   Following a short break, the crew returned to discuss what’s going on in Washington, DC with the budget and other federal initiatives pending.  In this time, Nick covered not only what had occurred with the Government Shutdown and the resulting agreement, but also what the current status was for CCDBG reauthorization, the Proposed Regulatory Changes to CCDF, and the President’s Early Learning Initiative.

1462980_863178810739_11969867_nDuring the next portion of the training the advocates took out their magic wands and talked about what they could do if they had the capabilities to accomplish anything in the early childhood space, as well as what barriers were currently in their path to achieving those goals.  When each group finished a brief presentation of their findings, Sara started the next part of the training, Engaging Today’s Generation, which covers how to use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Blogs to expand your organizations reach for advocacy.

Once Sara finished up her presentation and fielded questions from the advocates around social media, Michelle started the discussion around building an action day, giving the advocates present hypothetical situations and challenging them to come up with ways to get the attention of their policymakers.

The training ended with the advocates in the room going around and providing their bright ideas, takeaways, next steps, and potential partnerships.  Click here to read about our advocacy trips to New JerseyFlorida, Montana, and Nevada.