Excellent Child Care:
State Legislative Models
Below you’ll find a menu of model state legislation (most of which has passed in at least one state) as well as guidelines for state legislators and advocates relating to excellent child care programs that can be tailored for use in their own states.
Here are a few key legislative models enacted or proposed in various states (for more details, read below):
- State Dependent Care Tax Credit  model legislation
- Smart Child Care Act  model legislation for public-private child care partnerships
- Oklahoma Preschool Program  and Illinois Preschool for All law 
THE BIG PICTURE OF EXCELLENT CHILD CARE: For parents who work, peace of mind is knowing their children are in quality child care and early education programs. For single mothers particularly, 79% of whom are in the workforce, decent programs for kids during work hours are a lifeline. And not only do such programs support working families, but they are critical investments in the workforce of tomorrow. Since child care and early education systems vary so widely across different states, the models in this section promote policy guidelines, rather than particular legislative language, for two broad areas of early education and care:
These actions fall into two broad categories discussed in more detail below:
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For parents, providing child care is both a financial burden and a logistical challenge in finding quality care, especially for children with special needs. States are working to address these challenges with a number of different approaches:
- Expanding Eligibility for Child Care Funds: The federal government allows states to extent federal child care subsidies to families earning up to 85% of a state's median income (SMI), yet only Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi and Nevada extend child care assistance to families making 75% or more of the SMI. States also need to make sure that copayments are not too burdensome on working families.
- Improving State Child Care Tax Credits: Since the federal Child and Dependent Care Credit is poorly targeted since it unavailable to the many working families that don't pay income taxes, a number of states have created reformed state child care credits that are refundable and available to more of the working poor. New York and Nebraska provide the most generous refundable tax credits-- credits equal to 100% of the federal child care credit.
- Using Work Support for Early Childhood Education: Policymakers can promote use of federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) and TANF money to promote child care that delivers better early childhood education.
- Promoting the Availability of Child Care Facilities: North Carolina's Smart Start program has been one model for using public-private partnerships to promote the availability of quality child care facilities, while other states have begun using public contracts to encourage providers to serve groups currently needing facilities.
Guidelines and Models for Child Care Programs
- The SPDP 50-state Policy Comparisons  compares the availability of child care for poor families in different states using TANF and other funds.
- State Tax Credits for Child Care  (Urban Institute) and Making Care Less Taxing: Improving State Child and Dependent Care Tax Provisions  (National Womens Law Center) both outline how to improve state tax credits to make child care more affordable for poor and working families.
- State Dependent Care Tax Credit  is model legislation for state dependent care tax credits, includng making it refundable with broad income eligibility.
- The Smart Child Care Act  is model legislation based on North Carolina's Smart Start program to create public-private partnerships to provide high-quality childcare.
- Untapped Potential?  (CLASP) outlines how states can increase the supply of child care and improve the quality of child care program standards and services.
- More than a Work Support? Issues Around Integrating Child Development Goals into the Child Care Subsidy System  from the Urban Institute emphasizes how to strengthen the quality and educational components of child care.
Talking Points for Child Care Programs
- Children in high quality day  care display greater language ability and math skills, develop better social skills with peers and teachers, and have impacts on a child's education througout their career.
- Investing in quality child care has been shown to improve later behavior in school and decrease adult crime rates , leading to lowered costs for states and safer communities.
- Child care as an industry is becoming an increasingly important component of regional economic development , both for those in child care itself and as a supporting industry for other businesses that need quality child care available to attract and retain good employees.
- The US military has created a model child care system for 200,000 children of its members, a system that has been cited as demonstrating the advantages to all employers of having quality child to build employee morale and loyalty.
Other Resources for Child Care Programs
- How to Use the Military Model to Improve Child Care in Your State  (National Womens Law Center)outlines how to use the availability of military day care as a "hook" to promote better child care systems.
- Framing Child Care as Economic Development: Lessons from Early Studies  - a Cornell study describes initial efforts to promote child care as a tool for economic growth.
- America’s Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy  (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids) details how at-risk kids without good child care are more likely to become chronic lawbreakers.
- National Womens Law Center: Child Care and Early Education Resources 
- Individual States' Child Care Licensure Regulations  details child care licensing requirements in the fifty states.
- Child Care Quality: What It Is, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It  (National Womens Law Center)- a fact sheets on problems in child care systems around the country and how to improve them.
- Reality of the Workforce: Women are Working Outside the Home  (National Womens Law Center)- facts on how mothers entering the workforce requires better child care.
- Zero to Three  provides information and resources for parents or professionals on healthy development of young children, ages 0-3.
- Child Care and Parent Productivity: Making the Business Case  (Smart Start)- a report on how providing child care improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, cuts turnover and can increase company value.
- Early Childhood Development: Economic Development with a High Public Return  (Federal Reserve of Minneapolis)- documents the economic development benefits to local and state governments from investing in child care programs.
- Women’s Stake in Improving the Availability, Affordability, and Quality of Child Care and Early Education  - documents how women as both working mothers and the main providers of child care depend on the child care system.
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In the last few years, state commitments to fund pre-K programs have been accelerating. In 2005, state lawmakers increased pre-K funding  by $600 million across 26 states, adding 180,000 more children to pre-school rolls around the country. States like Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma have commited in various ways to statewide programs to extend preschool programs to all 4-year olds, and Illinois this year  became the first state to make a commitment to the goal by 2010 of providing pre-K to all 3-year olds as well, regardless of family income.
Other states have not yet committed to universal preschool but are expanding programs and studying options to move in that direction.
Guidelines and Models for Pre-K Programs
- The Oklahoma Preschool Program  is the longest standing state pre-K program and has achieved the highest percentage of 4-year olds in publicly-funded preschool in the country. The link above highlights key statutory provisions on defining eligibility, the responsibility of local school boards, and the creation of both curriculum and teacher certification standards for the pre-K program.
- Senate Bill 1497 , the Illinois Preschool for All law, doesn't create a similar right by Illinois children to pre-K education yet, but instead specifies a grant program for local school systems to expand their preschool programs, along with guidelines for the state Board of Education to assist in the expansion of the program to achieve the goal of universal access in coming years as funding expands.
- The legal organization, Starting at 3, has a state-by-state breakdown  of statutes and the legal context for pre-K systems in different states, while the Economic Commission of the States  tracks ongoing legislative developments. The Commission also has a searchable database  of program characteristics from different states.
- Pre[k]now put out a recent report, Funding the Future , outlining the different ways states are funding their pre-K programs.
- The Center for Law And Social Policy (CLASP) issued two recent reports, Missed Opportunities  on how states can better use Title I funds from the No Child Left Behind Act to fund preschool, and All Together Now  on how states are integrating community-based child care centers into their pre-K programs.
Talking Points on Pre-K Programs
Three simple reasons explain this turn to universal pre-K:
- Educational Equity: Since research increasingly shows that early education provides children with the skills necessary for later school success, most analysts see broadly-accessible preschool as critical for giving all children an equal educational opportunity. A study by NIEER  of pre-K programs in five states -- Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia - found that children in those states had clear gains in early language, literacy, and mathematical development. A more recent study of the Oklahoma pre-K program  found across-the board gains from preschool for all socio-economic groups. Significantly, the Oklahoma study indicated that lower-income children gained more benefits when programs included middle-income children-- a strong argument for more universal preschool programs that bring children together from all communities.
- Economic Returns: And if the returns to the children are clear, so are the economic returns to states investing in them. Just last week, a major study, The Economic Promise of Investing in High Quality Preschool , released by the business-backed Committee for Economic Development at a DC conference, highlighted research that every dollar invested in preschool is expected to yield $2 to $4 in future societal benefits, including savings for states from less crime and lower remedial educational costs down the road.
- Easing Financial Burden on Parents: One key benefit of preschool programs are that they ease the financial burden on parents of paying for child care and preschool programs themselves-- and making sure that working families are forced to put their kids in substandard and potentially unsafe care situations out of financial desperation. A recent study  found that families with a 4-year-old spend an average of $3,016 to $9,628 a year in child care fees-- roughly 10% of median household incomes and an even higher percentage for many lower-income working families. While pre-K doesn't solve all those child care issues, it can play a significant role in easing the burden and can provide a real alternative to often substandard child care options available in many communities.
Other Resources on Pre-K Programs
- IWPR: The Price of School Readiness: A Tool for Estimating the Cost of Universal Preschool in the States 
- Rand Report: Preschool Delivers  - documents the benefits of increased lifetime earnings, improved K-12 schools, and significant reductions in violent juvenile offenses and costs of incarceration.
- Kids Can't Wait to Learn  (Preschool California)- makes argument for strategic public investment in preschool for all to help California children succeed in school and in life.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children  (NAEYC)- nation's largest organization of early childhood educators dedicated to programs for children from birth through third grade.
Go to MomsRising Excellent Child Care Page 
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