Child Care

Kids Count Utah: A Data Book on the Measures of Child Well-Being in Utah, 2021 is the first glance at the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Utah’s children. Please click on the button below for the full report. 

2021 UTAH KIDS COUNT DATA BOOK

Children under the age of 18 make up a third of the state’s population. Not surprisingly, Utah children and their families faced additional challenges as a result of living through a global pandemic.

Unfortunately, over 10 percent of Utah children are experiencing poverty. Additionally, since 2019 Utah saw an increase of over 4,000 additional children considered to be in Intergenerational Poverty (IGP). More children caught in a cycle of IGP is concerning as it could mean that their own children may continue that same cycle if their economic situation does not improve.

Providing a quality education to children during the pandemic continues to be a challenge. The most recent data shows that student proficiency assessment results decreased over the past year. And data also shows that many children are not receiving the mental health treatment they need. A new data indicator shared in the 2021 data book looked at access to mental health. The data collected from the National Survey of Children’s Health shows that approximately 60% of three- to 17-year-olds struggling with mental health are not receiving treatment.

Voices for Utah Children hopes that the yearly KIDS COUNT data book project and the publication of Measuring of Child Well-Being in Utah continues to be a valuable resource that can provide guidance to both policymakers and the general public on how to improve the lives and futures of Utah children.

Published in News & Blog

This Early Childhood Care & Education (ECCE) Advocacy Training is designed especially for our grassroots partners in the childcare and early education fields, who want to be more involved in advocating for state and federal policies that support Utah families with young children! 

Our ECCE Training will be an interactive, accessible half-day event for early educators, providers, community advocates, parents and policy partners from all over Utah.

Location

** This event has been moved to online/remote-only to keep all our parents, early educators and advocates from getting sick during this COVID "surge" season **

Date

This training is being held on a Saturday (Jan 22)  in order to be more inclusive of early education professionals who are busy caring for and teaching children throughout the work week, as well as the working parents who rely on these folks while they themselves are on the job. 

Time

The training will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 12:30 p.m. 

Participants will:

  • Receive accurate, understandable information about:
    • the new Child Care and Pre-K programs before Congress that may soon to be available to states, and 
    • state legislation related to early care and education expected in the 2022 legislative session.
  • Build basic advocacy skills.
  • Gain a familiarity with the state legislative process. 
  • Receive support in developing plans for advocating in their sphere of influence.
  • Meet other advocates who are passionate about early childhood care and education.
  • Create an individual advocacy plan, based on their interests and abilities, that may include: 
    • Following bills and listening to legislative meetings via le.utah.gov. 
    • Calling or writing to their Representative or Senator.
    • Visiting their Representative or Senator on the Hill.
    • Providing public testimony.
    • Participating in public education via local media outlets.
    • Inviting their Representative and Senator to visit childcare and preschool sites.
    • Attending regular advocacy gatherings for information and updates.

There is no cost to attend, but in-person participation is limited. Participants can attend either in person or onlineRegistration must be completed by Monday, January 17.

Register Today

Published in Events

We appreciate the many legislators that supported bills affecting children. In summary, it WAS a good year for kids, but we still have plenty to do and we look forward to working together to #investinutahkids!

Early Childhood

Early childhood care and education had several key wins. The legislature approved:

  •  $7m in new funding for Optional Enhanced Kindergarten (which many districts use, with other funding sources, to offer full-day kindergarten)

  • $3m in new funding for School Readiness grants (to support high-quality preschool programs)

  • $5m in newly restored funding for preK-3 teacher professional development.

  • In addition, new legislation directed expansion in eligibility for working families to receive state childcare support, and several bills aimed to create efficiencies and financial stability for the childcare providers these working families rely on. 

Juvenile Justice

In the area of Juvenile Justice, legislators approved several bills that continue the state’s effort to refine ongoing efforts to reform and improve the juvenile justice system, which included:

  • A bold bill outlining and clarifying the Miranda rights of youth who are interrogated by police (ensuring that either parents or attorneys are present for such questioning.

  • An innovative pilot program to offer youth in secure care access to college courses through Dixie State University.

  • Finally, school-based discipline and the role of School Resource Officers (SROs) received some attention, with legislators giving a moratorium on criminal enforcement of state truancy laws during the remaining months of the pandemic and providing additional direction with regard to SRO training in public schools. 

Health

We were thrilled to see our Legislature take significant steps to prioritize children’s health coverage this Session and reduce Utah’s too-high number of uninsured children.

  • House Bill 262 (Representative Welton) provides ongoing funding for CHIP/Medicaid outreach so that more families can connect with affordable health insurance options for their kids. In addition, Senate Bill 158 would have removed barriers to health insurance, so all Utah children could get covered and keep their coverage.

  • In addition to children’s coverage, we saw important steps forward for children’s access to mental health this legislative Session including HB 337, sponsored by Representative Eliason, which will allow more early childhood providers to receive valuable training in infant mental health and also strengthen statewide systems to respond to the mental health needs of young children.

  • The legislature also made changes to ensure that funding for Utah’s maternal mental health program and awareness campaign were made permanent; thanks to Representative Dailey-Provost for championing this change for families.

  • Finally, the legislature also passed a bill that will make it easier for kids to access preventive dental health care. Senate Bill 103, sponsored by Senator Todd Weiler, allows dental hygienists to bill Medicaid, which will help promote greater access to dental care in school-based and childcare settings. 

Cover All Kids Campaign Update

Senate Bill 158 passed the Senate with broad support, but unfortunately it was not funded. We look forward to continuing to support the bill sponsor, Senator Luz Escamilla, and floor sponsor, Representative Francis Gibson, to get this important bill across the finish line next year.

Continuous Medicaid Eligibility Update

Unfortunately, the Legislature did not restore state funding for continuous eligibility for children on Medicaid ages 0-5. Continuous eligibility was funded in the 2020 General Session but eliminated as part of budgetary cuts over the summer. Continuous eligibility guarantees children will have a year of stable Medicaid coverage, as they already have with CHIP. The good news is that thanks to temporary federal requirements, all children currently have this option. However, when the federal public health emergency ends, this option will end too, which could lead to significant loss and disruptions in children’s coverage if state funding is not restored. This past year has shown us just how vital it is that all children and families across Utah have access to health care and coverage. Stable, affordable health coverage for all Utahns will be critical to our state’s ability to rebound and recover.

Other Legislative Priorities 

During this past legislative session, we were happy to support a number of bills that are “good for kids” outside of our main policy priorities including the following bills that include policies that we will continue to work on this upcoming year!

  • We supported and are glad to continue working with the International Rescue Committee on supporting our immigrant and refugee families through HCR 22: Concurrent Resolution Celebrating the Contributions of Multilingual and Multicultural Families to Utah Schools. 
  • HB 338: School District Voter Eligibility Amendments would have created a pathway for school districts to choose whether students age 16-17 can vote in their local elections. It was led by a young person, Dhati Oomen, but unfortunately did not pass. We will continue to further advocate for greater youth civic engagement through this bill and beyond.

  • Lastly, we supported and advocated for SB 214: Official Language Amendments as a positive first step to ensure we have greater language inclusion in our state. While we recognize that this is not a full repeal of the 2000 “English-only” law, this bill does remove funding restrictions and “official communications that exist” while keeping English as the official language in place.  We will continue to work on ensuring this law is repealed completely in the coming year.

Tax and Budget

Tax cuts were a big item of discussion, and there were three tax cuts passed:

  • There was an $18 million Social Security Income Tax Credit

  • $24 million Military Retirement Income Tax Credit

  • $55 million Tax Cut tied to the personal exemption related to the dependent tax credit.  

Voices opposed these three items as they were primarily a benefit to the top 40% of taxpayers and excluded the lowest-income 40% almost entirely.  

We were also advocating for a $7 million Earned Income Tax Credit equal to 10% of the federal EITC targeted to Utahns in intergenerational poverty. This was passed in December 2019 as part of the tax restructuring law that was repealed in the 2020 Session. Lastly, there were two bills to lower the State Income Tax Rate, which did not pass. We were opposed to both bills for a number of reasons.  The cuts would have led to a more regressive tax structure and depriving us of much needed future revenues.

We have many unfunded needs and it is our opinion that we should not cut taxes any further until we address those needs and provide the required funds.

>> Check out our Facebook page for FB Live updates of each policy area. 

Published in News & Blog

Salt Lake City - Voices for Utah Children released publicly today (January 6, 2021)  "#InvestInUtahKids: An Agenda for Utah's New Governor and Legislature," the first major publication of our new #InvestInUtahKids initiative. 

Utah begins a new era in this first week of January, with the swearing in of a new Governor and Lt. Governor and a new Legislature. The arrival of 2021 marks the first time in over a decade that the state has seen this kind of leadership transition. Last month Voices for Utah Children began sharing with the Governor-elect and his transition teams the new publication, and on Wednesday morning Voices will share it with the public as well.

The new publication raises concerns about the growing gaps among Utah's different racial, ethnic, and economic groups and lays out the most urgent and effective policies to close those gaps and help all Utah children achieve their full potential in the years to come in five policy areas: 

  • Early education 
  • K-12 education 
  • Healthcare
  • Juvenile justice
  • Immigrant family justice

The report, which was initially created in December and distributed to the incoming Governor and his transition teams, closes with a discussion of how to pay for the proposed #InvestInUtahKids policy agenda. The pdf of the report can be downloaded here

Published in News & Blog

“The way we [invest in Utah] is by focusing on our kids, giving them the best opportunities, the best resources at the earliest possible time...to help them to live better, happier and less trauma-filled lives, while also saving taxpayer money by dealing with these issues early on, before they lead to bigger problems down the road.”

Those words above, spoken by our new Governor, when he was serving as the Chair of Utah’s Early Childhood Commission in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor, capture our sentiments at Voices for Utah Children exactly!

We agree with these words, and call on all our state leaders to put them into bold action. With the coronavirus pandemic revealing the serious cracks in our state’s education system and child care sector, we need strategic investment big more than ever. 

Currently, Utah lags behind most other states with regard to investment in early care and learning support for Utah families with young children How do we lag behind, you ask? Learn more here!

Taking these five steps would constitute great progress in Utah’s championship of early education – and also promise the greatest return on investment of any educational reform.

1.         Appoint a Cabinet-level Early Childhood Investment advisor.

Early education is very different from primary, secondary and higher education. Investment in early childhood care and learning requires a dedicated focus. This advisor should act as the full-time staff director of the Early Childhood Commission, which is now chaired by Lieutenant Governor Deidre Henderson. Why would having a full-time commission director make a difference? Here's why.

2.         Reimburse full-day kindergarten at a full Weighted Pupil Unit.

Utah has one of the nation’s lowest rates of participation in full-day kindergarten. This is due to lack of access, not family preference. In areas where full-day kindergarten is offered, Utah families overwhelmingly participate. Okay, what's a "weighted pupil unit" and why is it important? And by the way, what is Utah's current level of participation in full-day kindergarten? 

Currently, local education authorities (LEAs) have to cover the cost of full-day kindergarten themselves – making access inequitable and unreliable. You can change this by budgeting a full WPU for full-day kindergarten programming, wherever families want it and LEAs can offer it. We've come to the conclusion that Utah is ready for more full-day kindergarten, based partly on these key reasons. 

3.         Build a statewide High-Quality School Readiness (HQSR) mixed-delivery system.

Utah’s only state-level investment in high-quality preschool hasn’t grown since it began more than seven years ago. Arguments over assessments and oversight have stymied expansion. It’s time to put the turf battles aside and get serious about extending performance-based preschool grants to more schools, child care providers, and community programs. Um, what is a "mixed-delivery system" for preschool?  And what is the state's current investment in preschool? 

4.        Use federal COVID relief money - and after that, state funding - to stabilize, strengthen and build Utah's childcare system for the future.

Working families need their kids to be safe, cared for and progressing developmentally while breadwinners are at work. In the past year, Utah has received a flood of emergency funding from the federal government to make sure Utah families continue to have access to safe, quality childcare throughout the pandemic - and beyond the recovery. Utah should waive parent co-pays for families receiving childcare subsidies, pay childcare providers based on the enrollment (not attendance) of children using subsidies, and continue its successful Operations Grant program. When the federal relief funding runs out, Utah should replace it with state dollars. How do childcare subsidies work, and why are these changes important? 

5.         Support regional coordination to improve kindergarten transitions.

Utah’s sprawling, mixed-delivery early childhood ecosystem can’t be managed by state administrators in Salt Lake City. Parents, community leaders, child care providers and educators need support to organize locally, and coordinate services at the city, county and school district levels. Utah should increase, significantly, its financial support of regional Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) agencies, to staff up efforts at regional coordination. What, precisely, do you mean by a "sprawling ecosystem?"

We loved how Governor Cox and Lieutenant Governor Henderson talked about educational opportunity, early education and education equity on the campaign trail.

“It is absolutely critical that education funding is our first and foremost priority,” said then-candidate Cox on the campaign trail. “We have to make sure that kids in rural Utah, as well as the west side of the Salt Lake Valley, get the same opportunities, the same education as kids in Park City.”

We could not agree more heartily. Park City has full-day kindergarten, public and private preschool, community investment in child care access, and an Early Childhood Alliance that supports regional coordination of programs for young children. Governor Cox is right: every Utah community deserves the same - and they will need bold state leadership to support them in getting there. 

If Utah is serious about every Utah family having equitable access to these same opportunities, these five steps will be central to our work in the next four years.

  

Answers to Your Totally Common Sense Questions
About Early Childhood Care & Education in Utah 

How do we lag behind other states?

As a state, Utah contributes very little funding toward important early childhood interventions, including: home visiting programs, preschool (including Head Start and Early Head Start), child care subsidies, and full-day kindergarten. Where these programs exist, they are made possible almost entirely by federal funding. 

Many other states extend the impact of federal funding for home visiting, Head Start, child care subsidies and other early childhood interventions by adding their own state dollars to grow those programs. Utah does not. As a result, fewer families can benefit from these programs in Utah communities, than would be possible with additional state funding. (Okay, take me back to where I was!)

Graph Estimated Funding Allocations

Why would having a full-time commission director make a difference?

When Utah’s Early Childhood Commission was proposed via legislation by Rep. Lowry Snow and Sen. Ann Millner during the 2019 General Session, the original concept contained funding for a full-time staff member to support the functioning and forward momentum of the new Commission. When the bill finally passed, this funding was removed. Since then, staffing for the Commission has bounced between the Lieutenant Governor’s Office and the Office of Child Care (in the Department of Workforce Services), with those responsibilities always falling to a hardworking public servant already tasked with multiple other critical education and child care projects. 

One persistent issue with the coordination and alignment of Utah’s early care and education system is that there is no single entity, agency or individual committed to that effort. 

Leadership, intention and single-minded commitment is needed to shepherd Utah’s early care and education system to the next level of improvement; currently, all stakeholders at the Early Childhood Commission table must juggle their early childhood work with multiple other state government responsibilities. (Thanks. Now take me back to where I was!)

What is a "weighted pupil unit" and why is it important?

A “weighted pupil unit” or WPU is the designated funding allocation provided by the state legislature to support the education of a single Utah public school student. Each year, the state legislature and the executive branch (including the Governor’s Office and the Utah State Board of Education) come to an agreement as to how many state dollars will be provided to each school, through its local education authority (or LEA, which can be a school district or a charter school) for each student enrolled for the next school year. 

WPU1

Currently, Utah ranks dead last in the nation - behind all others states and the District of Columbia - with regard to “per pupil funding.” This ranking has remained unchanged for years. 

The state gives each school district only 55% of a weighted pupil unit for each enrolled kindergartner. All state-funded LEAs are required by law to provide at least one half day (two or more hours) of kindergarten education for interested families.  (Okay, take me back to where I was!)

WPU2

What is Utah's current level of participation in full-day kindergarten? 

Across the United States, approximately 80% of kindergarteners attend a full-day kindergarten program. This figure has grown dramatically over the past twenty years (approximately 56% in 1999). 

In Utah, however, as recently as 2019, only 20% of kindergarteners attended full-day kindergarten (with an additional 4% attending an “extended” day of schooling, such as an additional 45 minutes or more of academic intervention on top of the traditional half day of kindergarten education). (Thanks. Now take me back to where I was!)

Full Day K Percentages

Indications that Utah is ready for more full-day kindergarten access.

In our report, “Three Things Utah Can Do to Ensure Right-Sized Access to Full-Day Kindergarten,” released in February 2020, we noted the following:

    • In response to both parent interest and educator confidence in full-day learning interventions, multiple districts and individual schools have tapped federal and local funding (in lieu of sufficient state support) to open more classrooms for a full-day of kindergarten instruction;
    • In every school district that has expanded access to full-day kindergarten (including Carbon SD, Rich SD, Ogden SD, Murray SD, Washington County SD, Grand SD, Granite SD, Salt Lake SD and Canyons SD), participation has been robust; and
    • Families living in districts offering little or no access to full-day kindergarten in their neighborhood school, admit to registering their kindergarten-aged children in a different district, in order to enroll their child in a full-day program. (Okay, take me back to where I was!)

What is a "mixed-delivery system" for preschool?

A “mixed-delivery system” for preschool programming is one where a variety of different preschool providers are part of delivering preschool opportunities to families. A “mixed-delivery system” includes preschool classrooms in: public elementary schools; private child care centers; and community-based non-profit programs (such as the YMCA). In some mixed-delivery systems in other cities, counties and states in the U.S., government funding is used to provide access to preschool for families, who are allowed to select which type of preschool program (school-based, community-based or private provider) is the best fit for their child. (Thanks. Now take me back to where I was!)

Mixed Delivery System

What is the state's current investment in preschool? 

The only state funding explicitly available for preschool programs is the amount allocated annually, since 2014, for the High Quality School Readiness (HQSR). The program started with an allocated $7.5 million of baseline funding; there has been no increase since. This program was a state-funded continuation of a Pay-For-Success initiative pioneered by the United Way of Salt Lake in 2013. Under the HQSR program, school districts and private child care providers can apply for a performance-based grant to fund preschool “seats” in their classrooms. Since 2014, approximately 5,000 Utah preschoolers have participated in the program. 

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) produces an annual report on which states in the U.S. have state-funded preschool programs. With the exception of the 2019-2020 report, each year, Utah’s state-funded preschool program has failed to meet the minimum criteria to be included in NIEER’s annual report. (Okay, take me back to where I was!)

How do childcare subsidies work, and why are these changes important?

Thanks to the federal government's Child Care and Development Fund, Utah is able to help low-income parents cover the cost of childcare while they are working, looking for work or training for work. During the current budget year (from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021), Utah will receive approximately $139 million in CCDF money, including an additional $40 million in one-time CARES Act funding to help with pandemic-related child care support. The federal government requires that at least 70% of this amount must be used to help families directly, through child care subsidies. 

This additional funding, with more COVID relief dollars on the way, has allowed Utah to make several positive changes in its childcare subsidy program. These changes have made it possible for more families to get help paying for childcare services. The changes have also helped stabilize and support childcare providers, whose businesses have been hit really hard by the pandemic.

In normal times, a family must make less than 56% of the state median income (SMI) to qualify for a childcare subsidy. That is $44,016 for a family of four people (or 168% of the federal poverty level). Thanks to COVID relief funding, families that make up to 85% of SMI to qualify for help. That is $65,498 for a family of four people. Child care subsidies are paid directly to a childcare provider when a child enrolls. In normal times, Utah only pays for each day that the child attends childcare. This means subsidies can be an unstable and unreliable source of income for providers. Thanks to COVID relief funding, Utah now pays childcare providers based on enrollment - so providers don't suffer financially when families have to quarantine, stay home from work or become ill. We think these changes, and others made possible by increased investment in the last year, should be permanent. This will help more families in Utah access safe, affordable and quality childcare. (Thanks. Now take me back to where I was!)

What makes Utah's early childhood care and education system so "sprawling" and difficult to coordinate? 

Currently, several different federal, state and local entities (including private businesses and non-profit organizations) are responsible for providing early care and education programs for Utah families with young children. 

Office of Child Care (OCC)

The Office of Child Care (OCC), in the Department of Workforce Services (DWS), provides child care subsidies to help thousands of low-income Utah families afford child care. In addition to state licensing requirements, OCC has a new “Child Care Quality System” that gives participating child care providers a designated quality level, based on a number of different factors. The Office of Childcare also manages the High-Quality School Readiness (HQSR) program funded by the legislature, through which a limited number of three- and four-year olds are able to participate in structured preschool programs. 

Office of Child Care Licensing (CCL) 

The Office of Child Care Licensing (CCL), in the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), is in charge of making sure child care providers maintain a basic level of health and safety in their child care businesses. 

Utah State Board of Education 

In addition, the Utah State Board of Education has guidelines for preschool programs that are provided through the public school system. Those guidelines are separate from the guidelines schools and child care providers must follow if they are participating in the state’s High Quality School Readiness (Preschool) performance-based grant program. 

Private Preschool Providers & Home-Based Preschool Programs 

There are also many private preschool providers throughout the state who are not required to be licensed by the Office of Child Care Licensing and who are not governed by the Utah State Board of Education. These are the kind of home-based preschool programs that provide only a couple of hours of instruction per day, for families who are willing and able to pay privately.

Head Start and Early Head Start Programs 

There are also dozens of Head Start and Early Head Start program sites throughout the state, which adhere to a completely different set of standards, set by the federal government, and which are largely independent of any state agency. 

(Whew, that's enough! Take me back to finish the letter, please.)

Published in 2020 Issues
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