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Children's Institute 2018 legislative prioritiesKeeping kids safe, healthy, and learning has to be Oregon's top priority. Join us in our effort to continue building a comprehensive early learning system for young children from birth through third grade.

2018 Legislative Priorities


Investing in the safety, care, and education of young children must be Oregon’s top priority. Ninety percent of brain development happens in the first five years of life, yet the state has not made a robust investment in early childhood. Oregon ranks 46th in the nation for providing early childhood education services to 3–5-year-olds.

Underfunding early childhood hits children from low-income families and children of color the hardest. There are more than 128,000 kids in Oregon under the age of 6 who live in low-income households. That’s more than half of Oregon’s young kids. Most of these children do not have access to proven programs and services like affordable, high-quality childcare and early education.

To close the opportunity gaps for children experiencing poverty, children of color, English language learners (ELL), disabled children, and children living in rural areas, Oregon must make a significant investment in building a comprehensive early childhood system.

In 2018, the legislature must prioritize targeted investments in early childhood that lay the groundwork for an early childhood system of high-quality care and education. We know what works and there is no time to waste.

Keep Children Safe in Childcare, $1.98 million

The legislature must keep children in childcare safe by providing funding to increase the number of childcare licensing specialists. Since 2016, three children have died in licensed childcare facilities. Oregon has failed to invest in critical front-line responders to follow-up when children are injured. National health and safety performance standards recommend a ratio of 50 childcare facilities for each licensing specialist; in Oregon each specialist is responsible for about 150 facilities—three times the benchmark.

Under new leadership, the Oregon Early Learning Division has implemented additional provider background checks and unannounced inspections and is exploring legislation for tougher penalties against those providing care without proper licensing. Compared to last year, the ELD has nearly doubled the number of enforcement actions and revoked four times the number of licenses. Despite these necessary changes, the ELD’s ability to provide adequate oversight is already stretched beyond the breaking point.

The state must also fund and implement a statewide effort to test for lead in 3,000 childcare settings. Currently the state has no idea how many children could be affected by potentially deadly or debilitating lead exposure.

Restore Funding to Early Childhood System and Programs, $11.6 million

In 2017, the legislature made over $20 million in cuts to critical programs that support young children and their families. Oregon already under-invests in early childhood, so we must backfill the cuts in the second year of the biennium to help get back on track. Restoration would allow these essential services to meet current needs in 2018–19:

Employment Related Day Care: Employment Related Day Care assistance enables nearly 9,000 low-income Oregon families to go to work, but there is a waitlist of more than 250 families who still need help. Restored funding is needed to move families off the waitlist and allow parents to return to work.

Early Learning Hubs: Sixteen self-directed Early Learning Hubs across the state coordinate Oregon’s early childhood programs. Services provided depend on the needs of each community, and could include identifying developmental delays in young children, training childcare service providers, developing evidence-based early childhood curriculum, educating parents, and connecting families to housing support and other social services. Communities of color and those with high populations of low-income families or English language learners have been hit the hardest by last year’s cuts. For example, there are now fewer professional development opportunities for childcare providers who speak a language other than English, and thus fewer opportunities to raise the quality of care for children in those communities.

Kindergarten Partnership & Innovation Fund: Aligning early learning and K–12 education is key to helping children maintain academic gains made in preschool. Thousands of children and families across the state have been served by community-responsive programming provided by this fund, including in family workshops to support early learning and kindergarten transition programs.

Focused Childcare Networks: These networks provide necessary training and support for childcare providers in rural areas, where options to receive required trainings are limited and high-quality childcare is already scarce.

Reach Out and Read: Reading to young children is one of the simplest and most effective ways to impact brain development. Daily reading is the foundation for future academic success, yet children in low-income families often lack access to books. This program trains health care providers to discuss books and shared reading during well-child visits and provides developmentally appropriate books for families to take home after every visit.

Early Learning Division: The ELD oversees programs and services for young children and their families. Last year’s funding cuts led to the elimination of staff who work to research, write, and communicate effective policies in Oregon’s early childhood system. That means it's more difficult for the ELD to keep parents informed about issues that affect their children’s health, safety, and education.

Pay Parity for Head Start Lead Teachers, $15 million

Head Start lead teachers, who provide high-quality preschool to children living at or below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, earn less than similarly qualified kindergarten or Preschool Promise teachers. Research has shown time and again that high-quality preschool is critical to children’s future academic and life success; high-quality education depends on qualified educators who are paid fairly for their skills and expertise.

Increase Access to Training for Childcare Providers, $4 million

In 2017, the legislature failed to fund proposed investments in training for childcare providers. Now is the time to start supporting those who work with our youngest children every day.

Due to high costs and limited availability of licensed childcare facilities, many families rely on family, friends, or neighbors to provide care for young children. In fact, Oregon’s working families have more than 400,000 children who need care, and only about 100,000 slots available in licensed or registered childcare facilities. Those who provide childcare in their homes currently have few opportunities to receive training. The proposed funding would allow for coaching and support of in-home individual providers on best practices for children’s cognitive and social-emotional development and would have the largest impact on children from low-income families and children of color, who use in-home childcare at higher rates.

The state must also restore and expand the Professional Development Consortia—through which childcare providers and early childhood educators can receive scholarships and support for college credit. Finally, the state must increase the number of Early Learning Division coaches who visit childcare providers in their places of work and provide real-time feedback and professional development.

Early Childhood Equity Fund, $5 million

In 2014, 36.5 percent of babies born in Oregon were children of color. The current list of early learning programs funded by the state—while critical to the communities they serve—are insufficient to meet the needs of children and families of color. Fortunately, there are an array of culturally specific organizations in our state with demonstrated track records for serving these families, but they do not currently receive state funding. This fund will allow the state to expand the programming offered by the Early Learning Division to create more opportunities for children of color and linguistically diverse children and provide an opportunity to address disparities in health and education outcomes for these populations.

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