The Oregon Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee yesterday approved making a vital investment in high quality preschool for Oregon children. It also approved critical investments in a range of other birth-through-third-grade initiatives to improve early learning in Oregon.
The committee’s 21-2 vote was a vote of support for the Children’s Institute’s entire legislative agenda, including not only the expanded preschool program but also expansion of home visiting services for at-risk families and expansion of a fund that provides grants that connect children’s early years to the early grades.
The committee's vote moves the legislation to the full Oregon House and Senate, which will consider it in the next couple of days. And now, we need your help. (More on that below.)
A broad coalition of groups joined the Children’s Institute in supporting a $30 million investment during the 2015-2017 biennium to provide a blueprint to make quality preschool available to more children from low-income families. The bill, HB 3380, would allow for a mix of organizations – school districts, Head Starts programs and community preschools – to receive state funding to provide the high quality preschool programs.
The committee approved investing $27 million in preschool, with one-third going to reduce current Head Start waiting lists and two-thirds going to provide high quality preschool to more children through a mix of providers. The committee also approved investing $9.5 million to expand voluntary home visiting services to families, to ensure more at-risk infants and toddlers receive support during their critical, early years of brain development. And the committee supported expansion of the Kindergarten Partnership and Innovation Fund, which provides grants focused on key early learning strategies like family engagement and kindergarten transition programs.
The committee’s vote yesterday approved the entire Oregon Department of Education’s budget – not including general funding for the state’s K-12 schools.
The budget also included:
- $4 million for the state’s early intervention/early childhood special education program.
- $10.3 million increase for the state’s Early Learning Hubs, bringing their total for the biennium to $15 million.
- $1.7 million for a school attendance pilot project to work with schools serving large populations of Native American students in order to decrease chronic absenteeism.
- $500,000 increase for Relief Nurseries in the state.
The committee’s approval now means the full Oregon House and Senate will consider these important early learning investments, likely in the next few days. Now is the time to make sure your voice is heard. We are asking early learning supporters throughout the state to contact their legislators and advocate for these vital and wise investments in early learning in Oregon.
We’re almost across the goal line. You can help us carry the ball that one extra yard – for the benefit of Oregon’s children.