On July 20th, the Commission on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) met for the first time. This Commission is comprised of Virginia legislators and representatives of business, economic development, local government, school divisions, parents and early care and education programs. The Commission is charged with providing recommendations for and tracking progress on the financing of Virginia’s comprehensive birth-to-five early childhood care and education system. The inaugural meeting was comprised of introductions and an overview of Virginia’s ECCE ecosystem as well as discussion on priority issues.
The Commission was established by legislation supported by VACo from the 2023 General Assembly session. Given the role of county government in supporting many early childhood programs and initiatives, VACo successfully advocated for a permanent local government representative seat on the Commission as ECCE has enormous impact to the health and well-being of counties. This seat is currently held by Belinda Astrop, Chair of the Greensville County Board of Supervisors.
The importance of quality, affordable, and accessible early childhood programs cannot be overstated. According to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), 40 percent of Virginia’s kindergarteners began the 2022-2023 school year still needing to build skills in Literacy, Mathematics, Self-Regulation, and/or Social Skills. Only about 3 out of 10 students from low-income backgrounds with no preschool experience enter school ready. Research shows high-quality early childhood is linked to better life outcomes such as academic achievement, health and well-being, and employment and earnings. Access to childcare also drives economic growth and employment.
Unfortunately, affordability limits choice. Tuition rates for infant care in Virginia average $16,723 each year. Tuition rates for a preschooler average $13,749. Together, that’s over $30,000 — almost 40% of the median household income in Virginia. In nearly every region, it costs more to send one child to childcare than to earn a bachelor’s degree from a local public university.
VACo supports efforts to increase at-risk children’s access to high-quality, enriching learning environments, including more resources and flexibility for localities participating in programs like the Virginia Preschool Initiative and Head Start, as well as additional federal and state funding for programs such as Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) to support increased demand for childcare services. VACo also supports local flexibility to administer or expand support services for childcare.
The Commission next meets on August 29th at the Reynold Workforce Development Conference Center. VACo will continue to engage and report on this issue. Information and presentations from the July 20th meeting can be found here.
VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett