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Build Back Better: What it means for California child cares and preschools.

The plan is still being volleyed around by legislators and the Congressional Budget Office, but if it moves forward, it will mean big changes for child care and preschool programs. 

Democrats are working to pass legislation built around President Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) plan through the budget reconciliation process. It includes massive spending on America's social safety net.

BBB includes investments that should save families thousands of dollars in child care and preschool costs. It also promises to build a strong, stable early learning system that meets the needs of families, providers, and the economy.

What does this mean for child care providers and families?
The child care and preschool provisions in the revised Build Back Better Act (as released on November 3) would include federal funding to:
  • Make child care affordable for all families with children from birth through age 5 using a sliding scale for copayments in which families earning less than 75% of state median income (SMI) pay nothing and a limit of 7% of family income for families earning between 150 and 250% SMI.
  • Guarantee access to high-quality, free, inclusive, and mixed-delivery preschool services available to all three- and four-year-old children on a voluntary basis.
Will all providers be able to participate in Universal Preschool?
The bill requires states to implement this funding using a mixed delivery model, meaning that both private and public preschool providers will be eligible to receive funding from states. Approved providers will include licensed center-based child care providers, licensed family child care providers, public schools networks of community- and neighborhood-based child care providers, Head Start agencies and delegate agencies, and consortia thereof.

Can faith-based providers participate?
Assuming faith-based programs are freely chosen by parents, there is no prohibition against the use of child care subsidies within sectarian child care settings. The bill does, however, restrict the use of grant funds to construct, permanently improve, or conduct major renovations on buildings or facilities used primarily for sectarian instruction or religious worship. 

What are the provider payment rates?
It's not yet defined, but the BBB plan requires California to certify amounts are "sufficient to enable eligible providers to meet program requirements and provide for increased staff payment amounts."

The bill will require California to establish new payment rates based on cost estimation models that consider not only geographic and tiered quality differences, but also presume living wages for all child care staff – to include pay parity with elementary school teachers with similar credentials and annual cost of living increases. Providers can expect significantly higher payment rates versus current rates.

What requirements will programs need to meet?
The BBB plan requires each state to define this, but we know that quality improvement programs, such as QCC, will play an important role.  Here's what the bill says about pay, lead teacher education, and service requirements:
  • Provide salaries and set salary schedules for preschool staff that are equivalent to salaries of elementary school staff with similar credentials and experience; and
  • At a minimum, provide a living wage for all staff of such providers; and
  • Require educational qualifications for teachers in the preschool program including, at a minimum, requiring lead teachers to have a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education or a related field within 6 years of a state receiving funds (excluding individuals employed by an eligible child care provider or early education program for a cumulative 3 of the last 5 years from the date of enactment and with necessary content knowledge and teaching skills).
  • Offer prekindergarten services for at least 1,020 hours annually.
Which communities will be prioritized?
The bill requires states to "prioritize establishing and expanding programs within and across high-need communities by awarding subgrants or contracts to providers operating or with capacity to operate within such communities."
This EdNews is sponsored by One Mindful
Give your brain and body a break with a two-week live virtual meditation course, Living Stillness. CQEL members get a $25 discount (message One Mindful for details).

What you can do now.

We must work together to make California's early learning system work for all communities. 

While we're closely watching the BBB plan, we need your help to ensure California moves forward in building a better care system that supports providers, teachers, and families. If TK made anything clear, it's that we need to advocate for mixed delivery programs, or community-based providers will be left behind.

Your support enables our advocacy. Please do the following:
Advocate for Mixed Delivery Early Learning in California
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