The Board of Early Education and Care approved a preferred fiscal year 2013 budget that is $823,000 above FY12 funding. The preferred budget includes funds for a separate line item for the Quality Rating and Improvement System as well as for unfilled positions in the department.
In other news from the November meeting of the EEC board, our research and policy analyst, Emily Levine, reports that QRIS is growing. Commissioner Sherri Killins told the board that 59 new programs entered QRIS in the past month. The Professional Qualifications Registry is growing, too, with about 200 new applications a week. Earlier this year, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) extended the deadline for enrolling in the registry to January 1, 2012.
Commissioner Killins updated the board on the state’s application for the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge. The application included 62 letters of support and 12 memoranda of understanding with state agencies. The application, the commissioner told the board, “moves the ball forward” with the progress Massachusetts has been making on building a statewide system of high-quality early education. Massachusetts is one of 35 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) applying for the $50 million competition. Massachusetts is eligible for $50 million over four years. Awards will be announced by the end of the year.
Also on the agenda was a transportation policy set to go into effect December 1. They come in the wake of the death in September of a toddler left for hours alone in a closed van. The policy requires drivers to use a passenger log to keep track of children they transport, with entries noting the time of pick-up and delivery for each children. Drivers are also required to walk through the vehicle after dropping off the last child to ensure no child has been forgotten. Early education and care providers, for their part, must notify a parent or guardian (or an emergency contact) if a child they expected to attend has not arrived within 30 minutes of the scheduled arrival time.
Among those testifying in the public comment period were attorneys from Greater Boston Legal Services and Debra Harris of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. They raised concerns about the proposed subsidy regulations, among them a concern that parents of children with severe disabilities may have trouble maintaining steady employment because of the demands of caring for that child. The board later discussed the proposed regulations.