By: Melanee Cottrill, Executive Director, Head Start California
Head Start California exists, in large part, to advocate on behalf of your program. It is my privilege to support such a worthy cause! Here are the highlights of our current advocacy efforts.
Despite the fracas in the House of Representatives, October was a busy month. We are focused on three bills that would impact Head Start. The House and Senate’s dueling budget proposals are also on our radar, we are closely monitoring the situation and will respond as needed to fight for funding increases and oppose funding cuts.
Federal legislation we are currently working on includes:
HeadWay Act – This bi-partisan bill introduced by Reverend Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) would make it possible to work in an Early Head Start program while earning a Child Development Associate. We are cautiously optimistic that this arrangement would help your program meet ratios by allowing CDA-seekers to work in classrooms, but are working through the details.
Head Start Expansion Act – Our board president, Jodie Keller, has been working closely with Representative Garamendi’s (D-CA) office on a proposed bill to expand Head Start eligibility. Although not yet in print, this upcoming bill is expected to propose categorical eligibility for families receiving TANF, SNAP, SSI, WIC and Federal housing assistance.
- Expand categorical eligibility to families who receive assistance under TANF, SNAP, WIC, SSI, and CHIP.
- Raise eligibility to 138% of the Federal poverty line.
- Establish grant programs for:
- Facilities acquisition, improvement, and repair;
- Student loan forgiveness for Head Start childcare workers; and
- Salary increases for Head Start workers.
The state legislature is currently on a break, but we are hard at work setting the stage for their return. Our top priority is removing the 10-year limitation on Associate Teacher permits. We are actively securing partners and working jointly to plan the best road forward.
To increase awareness of Head Start opportunities and challenges with our state legislators, we will be hosting a legislative briefing in November. It will be targeted at an influential group of state legislators and their staffers, with several Head Start California board members serving as panelists. Fall is the perfect time to share information about the program and challenges we face, as legislators are considering ideas for bills to introduce in early 2024.
Our team is also engaged in two statewide workgroups. First, the Universal Pre-K Mixed Delivery and Quality Access Workgroup, hosted by the California Department of Education, is working on improving access to quality early childhood education programs. Our Treasurer and Executive Director of the Stanislaus County Office of Education’s Child and Family Services division, Tony Jordan, is a vocal member of the workgroup. He ensures that Head Start is at the table and our voice is heard during discussions. I participate in workgroup meetings as a member of the general public – you are also encouraged to participate as a member of the public. In its October meeting, the workgroup heard presentations from states that have implemented universal pre-kindergarten and considered and commented on several recommendations. Full meeting materials and a recording are available online.
Second, I serve as a liaison in the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s Child Development Permit workgroup, and several Head Start programs are represented. I serve as a liaison and several Head Start programs are represented. This workgroup was formed to consider updates to all Child Development Permits based on the new Master Plan and UPK. In our October meeting, we matched foundational competencies detailed in the Master Plan to the relevant teacher performance expectations. We also learned more about the curriculum alignment project, which is working to align higher education programs with teacher performance expectations. It is expected that the group will continue meeting until at least April, potentially longer, to finalize recommendations.
While our team is certainly engaged at the state level, nothing is as effective as our legislators hearing directly from you and your families. Make sure to mark your calendar for our state advocacy day, to be held in Sacramento on Tuesday, March 12, 2024. Reserve the bus now to bring your staff, parents, and children to show our legislators how important Head Start is in California. Your presence is a critical part of our overall strategy. I look forward to seeing you there!