House Committee Passes Bill to Formalize Early Childhood Committees, Address Study Recommendations  

Media Statement

For Immediate Release: February 15, 2018

Contact:     
Ross Chambless, Communications Specialist
Utah House Democratic Caucus
(801) 326-1568 | rosschambless@le.utah.gov

House Committee Passes Bill to Formalize Early Childhood Committees, Address Study Recommendations  

Salt Lake City - Today the House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee voted to pass H.B. 319, “Early Care and Learning Coordination Amendments,” with a vote of 6 to 2.  The bill formalizes a Governor's Early Childhood Commission in the Department of Workforce Services, and an Early Childhood Utah Advisory Council in the Department of Health. The groups would work to address recommendations given by the Early Childhood Services Report from 2017.  

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck said, “This legislation will help Utah’s working families who are seeking assistance and information know what options are available for them. We know that the first years are critical for a child’s wellbeing and development. While Utah values the parent’s role as their child’s first and most important teacher, many struggling, low-income Utah families have no access to early educational programs and services to help their kids thrive from early age and beyond. ”

The bill would formalize and provide accountability from the myriad stakeholders who are already working to improve and coordinate quality programs and services for young Utah children and their parents. The Commission and the Council would coordinate efforts and resources to assess the quality and availability of early childhood education programs, along with health and development programs for young kids. They would also assess available early education programs for low-income children and make recommendations to state officials. The commission and the council would both be composed of early childhood caregivers, experts, educators, and public officials. If the legislation is successful, both entities would need to be reauthorized after five years.

Utah has a growing population and the highest number of young children per capita. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates 13 percent of Utah children ages 0-5 live below the federal poverty line and have limited access to quality early childhood education opportunities. A growing body of research shows a child’s first five years of life are critically important for lifelong learning, and laying a foundation for school and life success.

According to the 2017 Early Childhood Services Report, commissioned by legislation passed in the 2017 General Session (S.B.100 Milner/Edwards), produced by the Department of Workforce Services, and the University of Utah Education Policy Center:

High-quality early childhood services and resources can result in academic and intellectual gains, improving both the cognitive and social development of children. These early investments also benefit state economies and budgets, as the state realizes a greater return on investment for addressing needs early in life, realizing a more productive population and spending less on addressing interventions for adults with long-entrenched issues.”

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

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