The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving submitted testimony to the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee in support of SB 365 An Act Concerning Early Childhood Education Funding. The Foundation urged legislators to continue Connecticut’s long-term investments in early childcare including support for the Care4Kids childcare program, funding options and more flexibility for home-based childcare providers, and continued support for maintaining the Office of Early Childhood. Below is the full testimony.
Testimony Regarding Senate Bill 365: An Act Concerning Early Childhood Education Funding.
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving
March 9, 2018
Senator Osten, Senator Formica, Representative Walker, Representative Ziobron and Members of the Committee, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is grateful to have this opportunity to offer testimony in support of SB 365: An Act Concerning Early Childhood Education Funding.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for the 29-town Greater Hartford region. We are the largest community foundation in Connecticut, and among the largest 20 community foundations in the country. With a mission to put philanthropy into action to promote equitable opportunity for all residents in our region, the Foundation has long prioritized high-quality early childhood programs and system building based on research that confirms that investing in early childhood drives children’s success in school and life, and is an effective strategy to promote economic growth. Since 1987, we have invested more than $40 million in early childhood in the Greater Hartford area, primarily through the Brighter Futures Initiative and the Hartford Area Child Care Collaborative. In 2017, the Foundation awarded grants totaling $34.5 million, with nearly $1.8 million dedicated to early childhood system building in our region and statewide.
Our efforts include playing a significant role in the creation and support of the Office of Early Childhood. The Foundation has focused on supporting early childhood policy, funding and program quality recognizing their importance in ensuring optimal safety and learning outcomes for children and pathways to economic security for their families and caregivers. We believe that SB 365 provides an opportunity to improve the existing system of financial support for early childhood education by preserving and enhancing effective programs and providing greater financial flexibility to organizations.
The Hartford Foundation is grateful for the bipartisan work legislators have done to reopen the Care4Kids program, which is one of the most effective ways to provide access to quality, affordable childcare, allow individuals to enter and stay in the workforce and stabilize the availability of childcare for working families. We know that during the 15 months that Care4Kids was closed to new applicants we saw dramatic losses in the number of children served, with infants and toddlers seeing a 45 percent reduction in slots. Infant/toddler care is more expensive to operate and the business model is not sustainable without supplemental funding. Currently, Connecticut only has 1/3 the number of infant/toddler slots that families need and the cost is out of reach for most families. This freeze also resulted in hundreds of home-based providers no longer providing care and childcare centers closing or having to spend their reserves.
Reduced funding for childcare programs leads to a reduction in quality, and parents are forced to find alternate, non-licensed care due to a lack of availability. The Foundation recently helped sponsor a financial stability workshop with childcare providers from throughout the region and all of them discussed the challenges of providing quality care and maintaining their businesses. This challenge has been exacerbated by increases in unfunded mandates that lack the flexibility and amount of funding necessary to comply with these new requirements. The current financial instability of the field requires innovative thinking and flexible solutions to find business models that support quality care and livable wages for early childhood teachers.
We were relieved to see that the Congressional leadership has agreed to double discretionary funding to Connecticut’s Child Care Development Block Grant bringing $18.4 million to support childcare. At a time when the state continues to face severe budget deficits, we ask that policymakers use these dollars to add to existing state funding to help the field meet recently changed federal requirements that support children well-being and safety and family economic security. We know that cuts to Care4Kids resulted in increased costs to the state by forcing parents to leave the workforce to care for their children and rely on state supports.
We ask that you continue to do all you can to continue to make long-term investments in supporting a comprehensive early childhood system and build off the successes we have seen in recent years. Supporting early childhood system-building must include preserving the State Office of Early Childhood that provides an undiluted focus on early childhood quality and accountability; two-generational approaches that more efficiently deploy public resources through a focus on whole-family results and increased parental employment; a fully funded state child care subsidy program for low-income, working families; and adequate reimbursement rates and career pathway supports for early childhood providers, many of whom are women small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony.