FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Senator IrisEstabrook
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
CONCORD , NH – The Senate today passed SB 306, legislation establishing an early learning opportunity initiative, sponsored by Senator Iris Estabrook, (D, District 21). Senator Estabrook is joined by a large bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives in sponsoring SB 306. The bill passed with a $500,000 appropriation from the general fund. This was a compromise achieved in the Finance Committee when the original $1,000,000 funding source was no longer available.
“This is definitely a case of the glass being half full,” said Sen. Estabrook. “I remain optimistic that full funding can be achieved later in the legislative process.”
Despite the research that shows quality early learning environments are important, a large number of New Hampshire children spend their days in poor quality environments, many in unlicensed child care. Many working families’ budgets simply do not allow parents to choose licensed care, which is generally more costly. SB 306 will extend child care assistance to families whose incomes are between 190 and 250 percent of poverty.
Jackie Cowell, Executive Director of Early Learning NH, said that SB 306 is an important bill that will help working families keep working. “The bottom line is that if a family off our’s income exceeds $36,768 there is no state assistance for childcare. This means the family could spend as much as 50 percent of their take home pay on child care alone,” said Cowell.
“SB 306 will give these families the cost differential between unlicensed and licensed care, if they choose licensed care, giving them the purchasing power they need to buy it. Licensing brings many key health and safety safeguards – such as required CPR training for providers,” said Sen. Estabrook.
This legislation grew from Sen.Estabrook’s decade of experience as the director of the Child Care Resource and Referral program at UNH. She spoke daily with parents and providers and concluded that children in families with incomes just over the eligibility level for assistance were in greatest jeopardy. As a professional educator, Estabrook is familiar with the research that shows poor quality early childhood environments actually harm development, while high quality improves later learning and increases the chances for success in school and life.
“This bill recognizes the importance of the early years as a time of critical development that lays the foundation for all future learning,” said Sen. Estabrook.
This bill is sponsored by Sen. Estabrook, Sen. Green, Sen. Odell, Sen. Foster,Sen. Gallus, Sen. Hassan, Sen. Martel, Sen. Fuller Clark, Rep. Pilliod,Rep. Gargasz, Rep. Gile, Rep. Wallner, and supported by Early Learning NH, Dover Children’s Center, Children’s Alliance of NH and Child and Family Services among others.