Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Testimony in favor of HB 3380 and SB 213

June 11, 2015


Co-Chair Monroe, Co-Chair Komp and members of the subcommittee,

For the record, I’m Kate Brown, currently serving as your Governor.  

As Oregonians, we share a fundamental responsibility to ensure every student has access to the highest-quality education from cradle to career. Through my work early on as a family advocate and legislator, I know there is much more we can do as a state to make sure every Oregon child is ready to learn when she or he starts kindergarten, and reading proficiently by third grade. 

That is why I have prioritized investment in early learning programs for Oregon's youngest learners from 0 to age 5. We must close opportunity gaps for students before they develop. 

Supporting the stability and health of families beginning prenatally, at birth, and providing access to high quality, affordable child care and preschool is critical to ensure all Oregon children thrive. Unfortunately, these critical supports, services and early learning opportunities still only reach a fraction of the children and families who need them. 

Two bills before you today – HB 3380 and SB 213 – lay the groundwork for a better approach.  

HB 3380 expands access to affordable, high-quality childcare and preschool to more Oregon children.  

SB 213 fosters cross-sector partnerships through regional Early Learning Hubs that coordinate and expand the delivery of critical wrap-around services to underserved children and their families.  

Both bills are critical to creating a more integrated and effective early learning system that delivers desired outcomes, especially for underserved students.  

I had the opportunity on Tuesday to join 3-to-5-year olds at Wilbur Community Action Head Start not far from where we sit here today at the Capitol. I joined in as these bright children were read stories and sang together during their afternoon circle time.  And I visited with working parents who find hope in the opportunity early learning environments such as Wilbur Head Start provide to their children and to themselves as parents.

One mom explained to me that her husband is attending Chemeketa Community College full time studying in mechanics, while she works fulltime. They cannot afford fulltime daycare or preschool so Wilbur is a blessing for their family. She has also noticed significant differences in this daughter’s readiness for kindergarten-she knows her numbers, letters, colors and can spell simple words. She is very prepared to start this fall!

Wilbur Head Start is not unique in demonstrating results with the students they serve. What is noteworthy is that it is the only full-day, full year Head Start preschool within the network of Community Action Head Start facilities across all of Marion and Polk Counties. Only a fraction of the region’s families are able to take advantage of these critical services. The waiting list at Wilbur Head Start alone has seventeen families on it.  

The mixed delivery model in HB 3380 would raise eligibility to 200 percent of the poverty level, which for a family of four is $48,500 a year. More of our children would get the education they need. 

This mixed delivery model would also elevate early learning programs that already exist. In addition to expanding availability at Head Start and Oregon Prekindergarten, the state would support current child care providers, school districts and community based organizations to offer the same level of preschool quality through their own preschool programs. 

Alongside expanded Head Start and preschool options, SB 213 permanently establishes Early Learning Hubs to play a crucial role in coordinating providers and servicers to reach underserved children. The Hubs provide a critical leverage point for coordinating community assets to meet the needs of families throughout our state.

We have an opportunity this legislative session to build upon our investment in early learning in Oregon and create a strong foundation for young children and their families. Investing early will have a positive ripple effect on our education system, our social service sector, our economy and Oregon’s future. 

Thank you.