“Are you saying this wasn’t required before?”
That is often the response I get when I tell people about new common-sense child-care requirements that take effect July 1. People are shocked to learn that those who often spend more than 50 hours each week with children haven’t been required to pass a criminal background check or be at least 18 years old. They are shocked that only 25 percent of low-income children supported by government subsidies attend a high-quality program.
We are thankful that beginning July 1, our community will have access to safer child care because of legislation passed by the Indiana General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Mike Pence. Four important early education initiatives were enacted this session:
• New common-sense health and safety standards will be required for child-care providers that accept taxpayer-funded Child Care Development Fund vouchers. They include keeping medicines out of reach, requiring supervisors be at least 18 years old and safe sleeping practices for infants.
• To keep children safe, national criminal background checks will be required for all child-care employees and volunteers. Background checks have identified individuals with violent or child-abusing criminal histories seeking to work in child care.
• An early education evaluation program and early education advisory committee will be created. The evaluation will help document the differences in school readiness of children in high-quality programs versus those in lower-rated or no programs.
• Funding for a pre-kindergarten matching grant program ($2 million a year) for developing high-quality early education programs.
We commend the General Assembly and Gov. Pence for supporting efforts to improve quality care for children. United Way of Central Indiana highlighted this issue through its Kids Need Quality public awareness campaign launched in January.
These first steps are important, but more changes are needed. Important elements of the legislation were removed through the amendment process — including fire codes, child-staff ratios and class size limitations that mirror licensing requirements, and staff training in child development. Research shows that child-staff ratios and the quality of the teacher are critical to quality. Our state tax and philanthropic dollars should be limited to safe, high-quality programs.
At United Way, we know education is the best path out of poverty and we have committed $12 million over the next 10 years for early learning strategies that will dramatically increase both the supply of and demand for high-quality child care. More than 4,000 children are already benefiting. Kids do need quality. Let’s keep applying our collective common sense to ensure that we don’t fail them!
-- Ann D. Murtlow, president and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana
On Thursday the House Education Committee heard testimony on House Bill 1004 which would establish a pilot pre-K scholarship program for low-income children in five Indiana counties. The bill would also require that such scholarships be used in programs that meet level three or four of the state's Paths to QUALITY program.
Ted Maple, United Way of Central Indiana's (UWCI) director of education, testified in support of House Bill 1004. United Way supports voluntary public pre-K programs that are evidence-based, use age-appropriate curriculum and are provided via a
mixed delivery system that includes high quality providers whether they are located in existing child cares or schools. Stay tuned for future updates and advocacy actions you can take as the bill advances.
UWCI also voiced support for HouseBill 1011. The bill would allow counties to conduct a voter referendum to opt to dedicate funding for mass transit, and ultimately result in additional transportation options for individuals and families that United Way serves.
United Way's Hamilton County Director Joan Isaac testified in support of House Bill 1011 when it was heard in the House Roads and Transportation Committee January 23. United Way's past community assessments have shown that access to reliable transportation is a basic requirement for economic self-sufficiency. You can find out more about the mass transit plan here.
House Bill 1011 was passed by the Roads and Transportation Committee and is next scheduled to be heard in the House Ways and Means Committee - likely next week. Here is a link to the HouseWays and Means Committee. If you live in one of these
legislator's districts, please let them know that you -- a constituent -- support House Bill 1011.
United Way of Central Indiana’s board adopted a resolution in support of additional transit funding in July 2012.
--Laura Smoots, director, public policy, United Way of Central
Early childhood education. Preschool. Child care quality. You may have noticed these issues are getting additional attention in several media outlets. Support for early childhood education – which includes high quality child care and basic health and safety standards for child care providers who receive government vouchers for their care – continues to be a top priority for United Way.
Here are some of the highlights of the recent media coverage of early childhood issues:
- The House Republican Caucus released its agenda for the 2013 session of the General Assembly which included a focus on preschool.
- Read the Indianapolis Star article here.
- WTHR covered the release of this agenda as well as some additional information on the current state of early childhood education in Indiana. United Way's director of education, Ted Maple, was interviewed for this piece.
- On October 10, the Committee on Child Care - an interim committee of the General Assembly - toured different child care facilities and reported back during their meeting on what they saw at those facilities. WRTV covered the meeting and tours.
- The Indianapolis Star has published several recent articles on the state of early education in our state and editorials in support of early childhood - including additional common sense requirements for Indiana child cares. Below are just a few of those articles and editorials:
- "Our Children, Our City: In Indiana, we fail our children in thinking early learning is optional, not essential" - an article by Scott Elliott. Ted Maple was interviewed for this article.
- "Little Miracles Day care had drawn scrutiny" - an article by John Tuohy and Diana Penner.
- Editorials that urge legislators to take action and enact basic standards for Indiana child cares - especially those that receive government dollars for their care.
The Committee on Child Care will meet for the final time this year on October 29 at 1 p.m. in Room 431 of the Statehouse. If you can't attend but are interested, you can watch live here. I'll post another update once the committee issues its final report and recommendations.
--Laura Smoots, director, public policy, United Way of Central Indiana
Do you support policies that would provide additional public transit options? If so, why? Would more public transit save you time and stress on your daily commute? Do you see it as an environmental issue? These are both important reasons why our community needs more public transit options, but for United Way of Central Indiana, it comes down to being a crucial human services issue, which is why United Way's board of directors recently adopted a resolution supporting legislation that authorizes voter referendums to fund the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of mass transit.
Access to reliable transportation is a basic requirement for individuals and families to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Past United Way community assessments have found that lack of access to transportation is a significant barrier for individuals to access jobs, health care and education.
An op-ed by United Way of Central Indiana's President and CEO, Ellen K. Annala, was published in the Indianapolis Business Journal this week that illustrates how important transit is to our community. The op-ed tells the story of Ralph - someone who's been helped by HVAF of Indiana, a United Way agency, and who relies on public transportation. To quote the op-ed:
"You will hear proponents of mass transit talk about it as an economic development issue and a regional competitiveness issue. You will hear them talk about it as a quality of life issue with environmental implications. All those arguments are true. But I will forever picture it as a Ralph issue -- a story of how integral transit is to helping people achieve self-sufficiency, maintain it and pass it on to their children and their children's children."
That pretty much says it all. If you or your organization want to express this same support for additional transit options, visit our website for links to sign the Central Indiana Regional Transit Authority's (CIRTA's) petition or adopt a resolution.
--Laura Smoots, Public Policy Director, United Way of Central Indiana
This time of year, a common question I hear about public policy is: what goes on at the Statehouse when the General Assembly isn't in session? The answer is: a lot! While the General Assembly meets every year to consider and pass laws - usually during January - March or April depending on the year - each summer and fall interim study committees of the General Assembly meet to "study" various issues identified by the legislature. Some groups are only established for a specific period of time, while other are standing committees that meet every year and/or are established in statute. Certain committees are made up of only state legislators while others are comprised of legislators and other community members and leaders. These committees not only allow members to better understand certain issues or discuss issues that the legislature may have run out of time to address during session, but often legislation is drafted by these committees that ends up being introduced during the following legislative session.
United Way of Central Indiana follows these committees closely, especially the Committee on Child Care and the Interim Study Committee on Education Issues. In 2011 United Way provided testimony to both of these committees about our work in early childhood education - more specifically our work to improve child care quality as an essential component of early childhood education.
The Indiana Association of United Ways (IaUW) has drafted an initial list of study topics for 2012 which is available here. In addition to the committees mentioned above, United Way will be following a number of these issues this summer and fall, including: the Select Commission on Education, which will be studying several issues related to the new formula for grading public schools on a A-F scale, and; the Commission on State Tax and Financing Policy which will be looking at various state tax credits - including Indiana's Earned Income tax Credit and Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits - over the next two years (2012 and 2013).
Go here to find a comprehensive list of these interim study committees - this information is generally updated for the current year by May or June. From here you can access each committee's website where you'll find a list of members, meeting agendas and meeting minutes.
In addition to attending these committee meetings (meeting dates are posted online and open to the public) the summer and fall are a great time to meet with your state legislators to educate them about your organization and public policy priorities and even to invite them to take a tour of your facility or organization. You can find your legislators here.
As a reminder about lobbying dos and don'ts, IaUW has put together the following document: lobbying rules for nonprofits. Keep in mind during this election year that while lobbying activity is permitted for nonprofits, political activity is not. Nonprofits cannot use organizational resources to support or oppose political candidates or parties. IaUW has also developed a document outlining election year do's and don'ts for nonprofits.
-- Laura Smoots, director, public policy, United Way of Central Indiana
This time of year a common question I get about public policy is: what goes on at the Statehouse when the General Assembly isn't in session? The answer is, a lot! While the General Assembly meets every year to consider and pass laws – usually during January, March or April depending on the year – each summer and fall, interim-study committees of the General Assembly meet to "study" various issues identified by the legislature.
Some committees are only established for a specific period of time, while others are standing committees that meet every year and/or are established in statute. Certain committees are made up of only state legislators while others are comprised of legislators and other community members and leaders. These committees not only allow members to better understand certain issues or discuss issues that the legislature may have run out of time to address during session, but often legislation is drafted by these committees ends up being introduced during the following legislative session.
United Way of Central Indiana follows these committees closely, especially the committee on child care and the interim-study committee on education issues. In 2011 United Way provided testimony to both of these committees about our work in early childhood education – more specifically, our work to improve child care quality as an essential component of early childhood education.
The Indiana Association of United Ways (IaUW) has drafted an initial list of study topics for 2012 which is available here. In addition to the committees mentioned above, United Way will be following a number of these issues this summer and fall, including: the Select Commission on Education; which will be studying several issues related to the new formula for grading public schools on a A-F scale, and the commission on state tax and financing policy, which will be looking at various state tax credits including Indiana's earned income tax credit and Neighborhood Assistance Program tax credits over the next two years (2012 and 2013).
Go here to find a comprehensive list of these interim-study committees. This information is generally updated for the current year by May or June. From here you can access each committee's website where you'll find a list of committee members, meeting agendas and meeting minutes.
In addition to attending these committee meetings, (meeting dates are posted online and open to the public) the summer and fall are a great time to meet with your state legislators to educate them about your organization and public policy priorities, and invite them to take a tour of your facility or organization. You can find your legislators here.
As a reminder about lobbying do’s and don'ts, IaUW has put together the document, lobbying rules for nonprofits. Keep in mind during this election year, that while lobbying activity is permitted for nonprofits, political activity is not. Nonprofits cannot use organizational resources to support or oppose political candidates or parties. IaUW has also developed a document outlining election year do's and don'ts for nonprofits.
–Laura Smoots, director of public policy, United Way of Central Indiana
On April 16 the Marion County City-County Council passed a smoke-free air proposal, extending the city's current smoke-free air policy to most public places – including bars, taverns, hotels and bowling alleys. The proposal – approved by a vote of 20-9 – provides a handful of exemptions including those for nonprofit private clubs, retail tobacco shops and existing cigar and hookah bars. The proposal will now go to Mayor Greg Ballard who will have 10 days to determine whether or not to sign it into law. Earlier this year, Mayor Ballard vetoed a smoke-free air proposal passed by the council that included different smoke-free air requirements for private clubs.
*Click here to read an article about the Council's vote on the smoke-free air proposal in the Indianapolis Star.*
The ordinance approved by the city-county council on April 16 goes beyond the recently passed state law that bans smoking in many public places, including restaurants, but which exempts bars, gaming facilities and nonprofit private clubs and fraternal organizations. The statewide smoke-free air policy will be effective as of July 1, 2012.
Back in January of this year United Way of Central Indiana announced its support for comprehensive smoke-free air policies via an official letter to city-county council members. United Way continues to support comprehensive smoke-free air policies due to the health issues linked with secondhand smoke and its direct impact on individuals and families that United Way serves.
–Laura Smoots, public policy director, United Way of Central Indiana
The 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly adjourned early, the morning of March 10. As I've posted in earlier entries, the legislature had a busy "short" session and the last week was not an exception. The following bills were passed by the General Assembly and are supported by United Way:
- SEA 268 establishes an early learning advisory committee
- HEA 1376 provides additional funding for all-day kindergarten. In addition to support for the funding, United Way supports mandatory all-day kindergarten for Indiana children.
- HEA 1141 provides additional funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP),
- HEA 1149 puts in place a statewide smoking ban for many public places, with several exemptions including bars and casinos. United Way of Central Indiana supports comprehensive smoke-free air policies, but did not take a position on this legislation.
HEA 268 and 1149 have been signed by Governor Daniels, while HEA 1376 and 1141 are still awaiting signature.
In my last entry, I provided an update on HB 1136 which would have formally recognized the Registered Ministry Advisory Council, and changed the definition of a registered child care ministry. During the last week of session, the bill did not pass out of its conference committee. The bill would have provided additional health and safety standards for Indiana child care providers. Although it wasn’t passed, the issue invoked attention amongst the legislature, and was debated on the Senate floor and amongst various committees. Over the last several weeks, there’s been additional media coverage on the issue, including an article that appeared in the Indianapolis Star on March 11, and an editorial from the Star published on March 15.
In addition to the legislative activity at the statehouse this session, United Way of Central Indiana also participated in the United Way Day at the Statehouse on February 21. United Way staff and volunteers met with legislators and were recognized by House Concurrent Resolution 30. The bill was passed by both the House and Senate, and honored United Way agencies of Indiana. Thanks to all United Way of Central Indiana volunteers who participated! Below is just one of the many photos from the day. You can view the rest here.
–Laura Smoots, director public policy, United Way of Central Indiana
There's been a lot of activity in the state legislature and we're headed into what is expected to be the last week of session for 2012 - activity is expected to wrap-up by March 9. Here's a quick update on some of the most recent activity.
Senate Bill (SB) 268 that will establish an early learning advisory committee - which United Way supports - has now passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor's signature. Additionally, United Way also supports House Bill (HB) 1141 - which will provide additional funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - and language in HB 1376 that provides additional funding for full day kindergarten. Both bills have been passed by each chamber and will now go to House-Senate conference committees for further consideration.
Last week in the state legislature, there was a great deal of activity surrounding HB 1136 - a bill that formally recognizes the Registered Ministry Advisory Council. United Way supports HB 1136 which was amended and passed by the Senate last week and will now go to a conference committee. United Way also supported amendments that were offered to HB 1136 that would have put in place additional health and safety regulations for child care providers that receive government vouchers for their care.
Ultimately, the amendments that would have required additional health and safety standards were not adopted by the Senate. However, United Way thanks Senators for their support of these amendments and HB 1136.
*Click here to view a media story from WTHR Channel 13 about the debate on HB 1136 on the Senate Floor.*
Standard health and safety regulations for all providers will help ensure children have access to quality child care and early learning opportunities, which is crucial to school readiness and will result in higher quality child care options for parents. On February 26, Ted Maple - United Way's Director of Early Childhood programs - authored a piece in The Indianapolis Star which described the need for additional health and safety standards for all Indiana child care providers as well as United Way's work with registered ministries and commitment to early childhood education. The Indianapolis Star also ran an editorial on this issue on February 25.
–Laura Smoots, director of public policy, United Way of Central Indiana
The unofficial second half of the 2012 session of the Indiana General Assembly is underway. At this point, all bills that have been passed by their initial chamber are being considered by the second chamber - being heard in committee hearings and ultimately by the entire chamber. Over 750 bills were originally filed in the House and Senate and about 250 bills remain active. Some bills have already been passed by both chambers and signed into law including House Bill (HB) 1001, Employee's Right to Work, and Senate Bill (SB) 4, Human Trafficking.
Two bills that United Way of Central Indiana supports - HB 1136, which will formally recognize the Registered Ministry Advisory Council, and SB 268, which will establish an early learning advisory committee of the Indiana Education Roundtable - have been passed by their original chamber. HB 1136 will be heard in the Senate's Health and Provider Services Committee on Wednesday, February 15. SB 268 hasn't yet been given a hearing in the House yet but it has been assigned to the House Committee on Education and we're hopeful that it will be heard soon. Other bills of interest that are still under consideration are HB 1149, that prohibits smoking in public places statewide and HB 1376, which provides additional one-year funding for the State's full day kindergarten grant. The House and Senate have a few more weeks to pass bills out of committee and through each chambers - the legislative session will wrap up by March 14.
With all of the activity in the General Assembly it's important to look for ways to meet your legislator and talk to them about issues that are important to you. You can go here to find out which legislators represent you at the Statehouse and in Congress. Also, many counties, cities and towns offer "Third House" events where you can meet your legislator. The Indiana Association of United Ways has a listing of these events posted here. There are still a few scheduled for the remainder of the legislative session in Central Indiana. They're a great way to meet your legislator and talk to them about issues that matter to you!
--Laura Smoots, director, public policy, United Way of Central Indiana