FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 14, 2014) —A bill that spells out how, and who, will play a role in developing a quality-based early childhood care and education rating system with help from around $44 million in federal grant funds passed the Kentucky House today, 79-11.
House Bill 332, sponsored by Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, and Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, sets out that early care and education providers would work with the state, family resource centers, Head Start, and others statewide to develop a quality-based graduated early care and education program rating system for licensed child care and certified family child-care homes, state-funded preschool, and Head Start. Full implementation of the rating system for those entities would be required under the bill by the end of June 2017.
The $44.3 million in federal funds to carry out HB 332, Graham said, would come from the federal “Race to the Top” early learning challenge fund grant that Kentucky received after being allowed to compete for the grant with the approval of the 2010 Kentucky General Assembly.
“This legislation will give Kentucky families a system to clearly show the quality of early childhood programs across the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Graham said. “We are not changing the requirements for the programs—what we are doing is providing additional support to those who want to achieve at a higher level of quality. The end goal is that more children will be in a high-quality early childhood program, and, as a result, they will be ready for kindergarten when the time comes,” Graham said.
Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, asked how the program would be funded when the grant funding runs out over the next four years. He filed an amendment—which was narrowly defeated by a vote of 42-47—that would have required the rating system be discontinued after the Race to the Top grant funds are depleted.
“Who’s going to pay for it once the money runs out?” DeCesare asked on the House floor. “I’ve never gotten an answer on that.”
Graham said the purpose of the grant is “to lay a foundation that would allow the school districts to sustain it once that foundation is in place.” He said properly-trained child care providers would then train those coming into the system from that point on.
DeCesare expressed concern that program could end up being “another not-only unfunded mandate on the state but our school districts as well…I do have concerns about how it’s going to be paid for after that three or four years when the $44 million is gone.”
HB 332 now goes to the Senate for its consideration.