Early Education

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

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Children’s Budget Report Finds Utah Is Spending More On Children Than Ever Before, But Education Funding Effort Is At A Record Low

Salt Lake City, December 9, 2021 - Voices for Utah Children, the state’s leading children’s policy advocacy organization, released its biennial Children's Budget Report.  The report, published every other year, measures how much (before and after inflation) the state invests every year in Utah’s children by dividing all state programs concerning children (which add up to about half of the overall state budget) into seven categories, without regard to their location within the structure of state government. The seven categories are as follows, in descending order by dollar value (adding state and federal funds together):

breakdown p1state pie

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Public investment in children should be understood as a central component of Utah’s economic development strategy.  Examining how much Utah invests in children can help the state evaluate whether it is maximizing the potential of our future workforce through our investment in human capital. 

This is especially important given the rapid demographic changes taking place in our state. The 2020 Census found that 30% of Utahns under 18 are members of a racial or ethnic minority (almost one-third of our future workforce), compared to just 24% in 2010. The investments we make today in reducing racial and ethnic gaps among Utah’s children will enable the state to thrive and prosper for generations to come

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Report highlights are as follows
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Good News: Utah is investing more in the next generation now than ever before, both overall and on a per-child basis

spending per kid

Not-so-good News: The non-K-12 Education portion of the Children’s Budget peaked on a per-child basis in FY 2016 and has fallen since then by 2%

non educ spend per kid

Bad News: Utah’s education funding effort continues to fall to record low levels

 educ fund hist

Additional Trends: Changes in Funding by Source 

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Trends in Education Funding: UT beat ID for 49th place, still far behind US overall 

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 MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE CHILDREN'S BUDGET REPORT:

Facebook Live Event presenting the 2021 Children's Budget Report, major findings and summaries of all the categories of funding that impact children in Utah.  https://fb.watch/9O05ECPAHi/

 KSL: https://www.ksl.com/article/50308739/utah-children-drowning-in-unmet-needs-according-to-new-budget-report?utm_source=Salt+Lake+Tribune&utm_campaign=93649b5bb5-rundown_12_10_2021&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dc2415ff28-93649b5bb5-45560674

KRCL: https://krcl.org/blog/radioactive-110821/ 

Published in News & Blog

More than 18 months ago - right before the pandemic started to truly rock our world - we released "Three Things Utah Can Do to Ensure Right-Sized Access to Full-Day Kindergarten," a wide-ranging report on the status of full-day kindergarten (FDK) programming in Utah. We are very happy to report that Utah has made some impressive gains in terms of FDK access since 2019, despite the enormous disruptions of the pandemic.

These gains, and other helpful information about full-day kindergarten in Utah, are outlined in our new four-page update brief, "Invest in Utah Kids: The Future of Full-Day Kindergarten."

Even with these substantial gains in access and participation, Utah remains well behind the rest of the nation - including all our neighboring states - when it comes to the proportion of kindergarten students able to take part in a full-day program.  Back in 2019, fewerGraph Kparticipation2017 2021 than 23% of Utah kindergarteners participated in full- or extended-day programming - despite strong enthusiasm from educators and strong demand from families. Conversations with educators and parents statewide indicated that the problem was NOT a lack of interest. Rather, school districts and charter schools lacked stable funding to expand their FDK programs to meet community need and interest. 

As the state legislature has slowly increased the amount of funding available through the Optional Enhanced Kindergarten (OEK) program, schools statewide have been able to open more FDK classroom seats to families that wish to utilize this important and effective early learning intervention for their children. In 2021, nearly 30% of Utah children are able to participate in full- or extended-day kindergarten instruction. 

Based on several years of data at both the state and districtGraph KGains2019 level, we understand that FDK is an incredibly effective education opportunity that should be available to as many families that want to participate.

For example, results of the Kindergarten Entry and Exit Profile (KEEP) show that children who participate in full- or extended-day programs make much greater academic gains during their kindergarten school year than those who do not. 

Based on survey data from hundreds of Utahns across the state, we are confident that Utahns support the expansion of FDK programming to ensure that all the families that want to participate are able to do so, regardless of the community in which they live.

Additionally, the majority of registered voters in Utah understand that FDK is a solid educational intervention for children at risk for falling behind academically, and provides greater flexibility for working families. 

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We will be working hard for the next several years with our many partners in this effort - the United Way of Salt Lake, the Utah PTA, the Utah Charter School Board, the Utah Education Association, and school districts across the state - to ensure that every family that wants to be part of a FDK program is able to do so. That means increased state funding to support stable, sufficient kindergarten programs that truly meet the needs of the communities served by all school districts and charter schools. 

We hope you will join us in this effort, and invite you to download and share this handy four-page brief with your elected officials - including district and state school board members, as well as state legislators - when there are opportunities for action. 

Published in News & Blog

For years, state leaders have not prioritized the expansion of full-day kindergarten opportunities for interested Utah families. This has resulted in very limited and uneven access to full-day kindergarten across the state. 

Some have justified their lack of action on full-day kindergarten expansion by saying Utahns just aren't interested in having their children participate. They imply that Utah "culture" doesn't prioritize early education opportunities, instead preferring stay-at-home learning opportunities for kindergarten-aged children. 

In the meantime, though, stories swirl of Utah families who move, or lie about where they live, in order to enroll their young children in school districts that offer full-day kindergarten programs. Public education administrators say that when full-day classroom seats are made available in their schools, parents rush to put their children on wait lists. 

So, who is right? What do Utahns really think about full-day kindergarten? This past summer, Voices for Utah Children worked with Y2 Analytics, a Utah-based market research and data analytics company, to find out. 

From June 26 to July 22, 2021, Y2 Analytics surveyed 1,976 Utah voters, randomly sampled throughout the state - including from each of the top eight largest school districts (Alpine, Davis, Granite, Jordan, Washington County, Nebo, Canyons and Weber). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.2 percentage points. 

A strong majority of Utahns support expanding full-day kindergarten programming - even if it means higher taxes. 

 

  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of surveyed voters said they would "support the expansion of optional full-day kindergarten programs in all public schools throughout Utah." Survey respondents who live in a household with a stay-at-home parent were only slightly less supportive (65%) than those in a household without a stay-at-home parent (69%). Support was strong across counties: 
    • In Davis County, 73% of respondents supported full-day kindergarten expansion (with 43% saying they "strongly support" expansion);
    • In Salt Lake County, 71% were supportive (47% say they "strongly support" expansion); 
    • In Weber County, 65% were supportive (47% say they "strongly support" expansion);
    • In Utah County, 64% were supportive (36% "strongly support");
    • In Washington County, 59% were supportive (37% "strongly support"); and
    • Across all other counties, 67% of respondents said they were supportive (with 38% indicating "strong" support). 
  • Expanding full-day kindergarten programs has broad support across religious and political affiliations. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of all LDS survey respondents said they "support the expansion of optional full-day kindergarten programs," with 69% of those with other religious affiliations and 75% of those with no religious affiliation agreeing. Sixty-one percent (61%) of respondents who identified themselves as conservative were supportive, as were 77% of those who identify as liberals. 
  • Those who are most often responsible for child-rearing are also the most supportive of full-day kindergarten expansion: nearly three-quarters (73%) of all women surveyed were supportive, as compared to about two-thirds (64%) of men. 
  • When asked to "imagine for a moment that in order to fund statewide availability for full-day kindergarten, each resident was required to pay an addition $5 per year in taxes," 69% of those surveyed said they were supportive (40% were "strongly" supportive); only 24% said they were opposed (just 15% were "strongly" opposed). When the tax increase went up to $65 per year, support dropped among respondents - but a strong majority (57%) were still supportive of the idea. 

Utahns have largely positive attitudes toward full-day kindergarten, though some feel they don't know enough about it to have a strong opinion. 

 

  • Three times as many Utah voters (34%) said that full-day kindergarten is better than half-day programs, than those who thought half-day was better (12%). However, slightly more than one-third (34%) said they didn't know how the two options compare to one another. 
  • Fifty-six percent (56%) of those surveyed agree that "full-day programs help to close the achievement gap for underprivileged Utah students." Only 18% disagreed with the statement; 25% were neutral on the question.
  • Sixty-two percent (62%) agreed that "making more full-day kindergarten programs available would benefit the economy by allowing more parents to work during the day." Only 16% disagreed with that statement; 22% were neutral on the question. 
  • Nearly 2.5 times as many voters agreed that "making more full-day kindergarten programs available would improve public education in the state" than those who disagreed.

When it is available to their families, Utahns prefer to participate in full-day kindergarten. 

 

  • Of survey respondents who had children or grandchildren who did not have the chance to go to full-day kindergarten, we asked "would you have enrolled your children/grandchildren in full-day kindergarten if that option had been available to you?" A strong majority (58%) said that they would have if they could have. (Currently, only about 29% of Utah kindergarteners participate in a full-day program, according to the Utah State Board of Education). 

  • Among those who did have the option of enrolling their children in a full-day program, 69% chose to participate. Some reasons that respondents gave for not electing to participate in the full-day program available to them, include:

    • The cost of enrolling in the additional instruction hours (some school districts offer additional enrichment activities in the afternoon for kindergarteners, for an additional cost to the family); and

    • The fact that their children did not score low enough on the Kindergarten Entry and Exit Profile to qualify for full-day programming (in most school districts, full-day kindergarten seats are only offered to students who score below a certain level lack of proficiency in reading and math). 

    • More may have chosen full-day kindergarten if the programming had been free and/or available to all children regardless of academic risk factors. 

The results of our survey help to confirm much of the qualitative data our staff has gathered from school districts and charter schools over the past several years, some of which can be reviewed in our 2020 report, "3 Things Utah Can Do to Ensure Right-Sized Access to Full-Day Kindergarten." Education administrators from school districts across the state say that when families have the chance to enroll their children in full-day kindergarten at no cost, participation rates fall somewhere between 80% and 90%. 

Confirmation of Utahns' interest in and support of full-day kindergarten is an important step in ongoing efforts - by Voices for Utah Children and multiple partner organizations, including United Way of Salt Lake and the Utah PTA - to see kindergarten funded in the same way that all other grades in the K-12 system are funded (via a full WPU for a full-day student). 

Bonus Survey Data: Utahns are REALLY Excited about Preschool! 

  • Ninety percent (90%) of survey respondents see Pre-K education as beneficial - with 51% of respondents saying that preschool is very beneficial. 
  • When we asked those survey participants who are parents, whether they would enroll their child(ren) "in a public in-person preschool if that option were available to you," more than two-thirds said that they would.
    • Seventy percent (70%) of parents with kids who were still too young to attend K-12 school said they would enroll their children in public, in-person preschool if they had the opportunity to do so. 
    • Sixty-six percent (66%) of parents whose kids are already too old for preschool, said they would have enrolled their children if the opportunity had been available to them when their kids were younger.
Published in News & Blog

Beginning this Summer 2021, Utah Local Education Agencies (LEAs) will be receiving approximately $615 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER) funds from the American Rescue Plan. Now is the time to use this funding to help our youngest learners that will need the additional instruction and interventions now more than ever.

In this explainer, Voice's staff Anna Thomas and Laneta Fitisemanu will cover the ESSER funding Utah is set to receive as well as ways that we can use the funds and support full day kindergarten and preschool expansion. 

We have exactly two school years (2021-22, 2022-23) and three summers (2021, 2022, 2023) to spend these funds. It is critical that we think big picture about where we invest this money when it comes to education.

We have strong data and evidence supporting that full day kindergarten and preschool programs help improve learning gaps for children that participate particularly for our most vulnerable and underrepresented student groups. This is why using ESSER funds to help expand these much wanted and needed programs is critical and one of the most important investments we can make that will have a huge impact for years to come.

Let's invest in Utah kids by using this relief funding to expand early education programs and further support the value and importance of giving more of Utah children and families access to full day kindergarten and preschool programs! 

Resources and References

Published in News & Blog

Local education authorities, the state Office of Education, and the Office of Child Care have received hundreds of millions of dollars that can and should be spent to invest in what is best for Utah’s children.

We must work together to put these investment dollars to use with creative, community-supported solutions that help all Utah families with young children.

Let’s rise to the occasion and build quality early care and education plans and programs that work best for Utah kids!

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NOW IS THE TIME TO MAKE BOLD PLANS IN YOUR COMMUNITY!

Here are some ways that American Rescue Plan funding can be used in your community to support early childhood care and education:

  • Free summer enrichment programs for families in need of academic support as well as child care!
  • Expanded full-day kindergarten opportunities to ensure all kids in your community can get caught up and start first grade on par with their peers!
  • On-line and in-person home visiting support for families with young children who want and need extra guidance regarding child development, safety and nutrition, and family financial stability. 
Click to download and share our American Rescue Plan for Early Education Flyer
Published in News & Blog

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
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