As this recent News Journal article summarized, due in part to a budget shortfall, Delaware will not fund tiered reimbursements for new early learning programs entering the Stars quality rating program this fiscal year. The same is true of existing programs that are attempting to move up in Stars rating.
Already, we in the early learning community are hearing about programs considering dropping out of Stars. Today there are 35,457 Delaware children in 495 ‘Stars’ programs statewide. Eighty-two percent of Stars programs have undertaken the necessary and difficult work to reach a Star level 3 or higher, with 66 percent of all programs at Star 4 or 5. These programs depend on tiered reimbursement to serve children from low-income families.
Financial challenges could lead to the unraveling of Stars, which supports and incentivizes the quality we know produces the best results for children. Most programs cannot shoulder the financial reality of providing service for Purchase of Care children (those who qualify for state subsidy) without tiered reimbursement.
This means that access to quality options will decline. The stability of working families will be threatened. Programs may close altogether. We need to do more for our youngest citizens and their families.
And, we know our young population is growing: three- to four-percent growth of children in families qualifying for Purchase of Care each year means tiered reimbursements need to grow with them.
Current estimates indicate that it will take about $8 million in the FY19 budget to continue to grow the program. Remember that even with this level of funding (based on the 2011 market rate), one-third to one-half of kindergartners are arriving unprepared and about half of third graders cannot read on grade level—a predictor of high school graduation.
Join us to advocate for continued investment in young children’s learning: Reach out to legislators and the governor encouraging them to invest in Stars/tiered reimbursement to improve long term outcomes for families.