Where do you go for the top news in Early Learning at the state level? Check out “5 Questions for the Governor,” where we explore the top Early Learning challenges and successes in states across the nation. We’re thrilled to partner with The Hunt Institute on this series.
1. Delaware is a leading example of how to achieve greater government efficiency and alignment, as you have prioritized consolidating early childhood governance and programming. How do you see these efforts strengthening the early childhood system of Delaware?
As a professor, nurse, mom and policymaker, access to efficient, effective and equitable early childhood education is and has been an ongoing top priority of mine. Having a holistic and seamless birth-to-5 system for all children in all zip codes is paramount to our attaining actionable results and long-term, well-being and economic health for communities.
In Delaware, we recognized that we needed to consolidate early childhood programs that were fragmented across multiple divisions of the state. This fragmentation caused confusion for parents and providers. Research supports that an easy-to-navigate and streamlined early childhood education system is more efficient and impactful for children, families and early learning professionals.
“Ultimately, we hope that by bringing the oversight of these programs together we can not only achieve greater efficiency and alignment, but also create strong support systems for Delaware’s young children, families and educators.” — Delaware Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long
We knew the current system could be strengthened, so beginning in 2019, the Administration undertook efforts to consolidate Delaware’s early childhood education system. We first moved the Office of Child Care Licensing to the Department of Education to join the Office of Early Learning. We then created an Associate Secretary role to have a singular leader over this work. We are now working on the movement of Part C from our Department of Health and Social Services over to DOE, to continue to streamline early childhood governance and services. We are excited about this continued work.
2. In 2021, you became chair of the Delaware Office of Early Learning Advisory Committee which supports the Delaware Department of Education’s newly formed Early Childhood Support Team. In what ways does the advisory committee aim to support and improve early educational efforts?
I am honored to be the chair of the Advisory Committee, which aims to support the recently formed Early Childhood Support Team. This team includes both the Office of Early Learning (OEL) and the Office of Childcare Licensing (OCCL), which relocated to the Department of Education from a different state agency. Under the helpful guidance of the Hunt Institute, the committee brings together a variety of perspectives, including state lawmakers, agency leaders, early childhood professionals, and business and community representatives. We have heard from national leaders, explored best practices and provided the department with feedback on goals.
Ultimately, we hope that by bringing the oversight of these programs together we can not only achieve greater efficiency and alignment, but also create strong support systems for Delaware’s young children, families and educators. The first 1,825 days of a child’s brain health and development are critical. Eliminating unnecessary barriers and creating a more navigable system will help ensure that we don’t lose a single one of those days.
3. Delaware recently announced a significant investment of over $120 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) relief funds to support Delaware’s child care industry. How do you envision this investment supporting Delaware’s child care workforce?
Over the past two years, it became clear to our administration that Delaware’s child care providers needed greater support, as they have stepped up and supplied the essential care and services so many families and frontline workers desperately needed throughout the pandemic.
As we recognized the critical role the childcare workforce has played in sustaining Delaware’s economy, I am delighted with our recent decision to allocate over $120 million ARPA dollars to strengthen the childcare industry. This great investment will go towards Child Care Stabilization grants and direct financial relief to Delaware’s child care workers who rightly deserve our support. These relief funds will not only help our providers keep their doors open but will help pay and retain the child care workforce while increasing resources available to Delaware’s children and families.
We know that children need stable, reliable care, and by prioritizing our workforce, we are in turn ensuring parents can participate in the workforce and that children have access to the high-quality early learning experiences they need. I am grateful that we can assist not only our current workforce but also drive great changes in our early childhood system for years to come. It is my hope that these professionals feel respected and know that as leaders in Delaware, we appreciate their hard work and care about their well-being.
4. Additionally, your administration just supported the creation and launch of the Early Childhood Innovation Center, to be housed at Delaware State University. How will this support and expand equitable pathways to the early childhood profession?
We are excited to support new initiatives that will bolster Delaware’s childcare industry. Delaware State University, in partnership with the state Department of Education and Department of Health and Social Services, will work together over the next five years to establish the Early Childhood Innovation Center (ECIC). This center will offer a substantial boost to Delaware’s current and future child care workforce. The goal of ECIE is to develop a statewide infrastructure to help Delawareans enter the child care workforce through unique pathways and provide professional credentials and career advancement opportunities.
The ECIC also plans to create a scholarship program to support those that are interested in accessing early childhood degree programs and furthering their education. With the creation of the center, we are working to ensure more teachers are equipped with the tools needed to effectively serve Delaware’s young children and prepare them with the skills needed to be successful in kindergarten and beyond.
5. As you often mention, the first five years of life are critical to a child’s development and a good education is one of the central pillars for a stronger Delaware. What is your greatest hope for Delaware’s youngest children in the coming years?
As a mother, nursing professor and policymaker, I am proud of our state’s commitment to supporting the well-being of our children and families. With our continued focus on strengthening the early care and education system, it is my greatest hope that ALL young
Delawareans have access to the services and resources they need to have a solid educational foundation.
Equitable investments in our state’s educational and health systems today will ensure that all children and families in the future are successful across their lifespan. In collaboration with the Hunt Institute administration, task force members and grassroots leaders, we are dedicated to creating a stronger and healthier Delaware.