Oregon House Bill 3073 (HB 3073) will streamline Oregon’s child care system by establishing a new state agency: the Early Learning Authority. The agency will be separate from the Oregon Department of Education.
“A new department focused on early learning and care is a necessary next step for Oregon to expand equitable early learning opportunities and unify its child care system,” explained Miriam Calderon, Oregon Early Learning System director.
“With this change, our state’s children, families, communities, providers, and businesses will benefit from greater access, higher quality, and efficient delivery of services. After a pandemic that has focused our state and our country on the importance of child care, and new federal resources, there couldn’t be a better moment to act,” she said.
Currently, the state’s Early Learning Division (ELD) oversees the majority of Oregon’s early care and education programs, which include state preschool, state infant-toddler programs, professional learning and the Quality Improvement System, parenting education, and an early childhood equity fund that targets resources to culturally-specific 0-5 and multigenerational programs.
The Future of Child Care in Oregon
HB 3073 is a critical piece of legislation that addresses Oregon’s child care crisis and will strengthen the child care system statewide.
Children ages 0-5 are the most racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse Oregonians. They are also the most likely to live in poverty. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic only continues to compound the effects of racism and inequality among children in this age group.
“Babies born during the pandemic will be starting kindergarten as we start to recover from a recession,” explained Dana Hepper, director of policy and advocacy at Children’s Institute. “Brain development during this time period creates a foundation for their whole lives, which is why it’s critically important we make progress for them, now.”
HB 3073 will provide every child age 0-5 in Oregon with the opportunity to succeed in school, work, and life by providing high-quality early childhood education programs. It will also allow the state to be more strategic in its use of funds to rebuild the early child care and education sector from the devastating effects of the pandemic; make programs work better for children, families, and providers; and create a critical opportunity to advance equity.
Establishing the Early Learning Authority will streamline the administration of child care and early learning by housing Oregon’s child care subsidy program, Employment Related Day Care (ERDC), with other early learning and child care programs.
It will also shift ERDC into a child care assistance program that better serves low-income families, and creates more financial stability for child care business owners and educators 一 especially Black, Native, women of color and other women 一 who perform this essential work.
Early Childhood Advocacy
The Child Care for Oregon Coalition (CCFO) is leading advocacy efforts to build a comprehensive child care system in Oregon and HB 3073 is a top priority.
Oregon’s Early Childhood Coalition (ECC) collaborates with and supports CCFO’s leadership and vision to build a universal, publicly-funded child care system in Oregon that is equitable, affordable, culturally-relevant, inclusive, developmentally appropriate, safe and community-led. Both the CCFO and ECC have made a commitment to be guided by the experiences of Black, Native, and families of color; and families and providers historically excluded from policy and budget decisions.
With HB 3073, Oregon is well-positioned to provide a model for how to transform early childhood governance, improve the delivery of services to children and families, and better support child care providers.