During the 2000 legislative session, House Bill 706 unanimously was passed in both chambers of the Kentucky Legislature. At that time, it was the most comprehensive package of early childhood legislation in the nation addressing the needs of the whole child, including health care, family assistance, high-quality education, and community involvement. It committed 25% of the Kentucky Tobacco Settlement Fund annually to support early childhood programs.
In 2009, The Governor's Task Force on Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) was established. The task force made eight recommendations, including establishing the Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) and the Kentucky Governor's Office of Early Childhood (GOEC), that would promote an early childhood framework and partner with Kentucky's state agencies, community partners, and families to improve early learning experiences and opportunities, helping to ensure school readiness for our children, schools, and communities.
Among the eight recommendations, the Early Childhood Advisory Council is required to strengthen and support Community Early Childhood Councils as early childhood leaders in their communities. Councils address the unique needs and strengths of the local community related to early childhood. In addition, Councils were designed to encourage local communities to establish and strengthen relationships; promote collaboration and coordination between early care and education providers, schools, and the community as a whole; and involve individuals from a cross-section of the community who can foster efforts to improve outcomes for young children and their families. Councils use new and existing relationships within communities to build and sustain supports for early childhood development and learning.
In December 2013, Kentucky received the third round of Race to The Top-Early Learning Challenge funds through the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. These funds were utilized to increase the quality of early learning programs for children at risk, support families through strength-based initiatives, provide meaningful data to communities, and align professional development systems.
In December 2018, Kentucky received a Preschool Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Child Care. These funds focused on building upon Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge efforts and strengthening Kentucky's early childhood mixed delivery system's alignment, coordination, and efficiency. Strategies that were implemented with these funds included capacity building across the system; data system improvements; improved engagement of families, caregivers, and communities; and alignment and leveraging of existing resources to meet the needs of vulnerable children. Councils were key partners in realizing planned outcomes. Based upon evaluation process recommended findings, the Early Childhood Advisory Council voted to streamline and align Community Early Childhood Councils to the Workforce Investment Boards, reducing the number of (single) Councils to Regional Collaboratives supporting best practices and providing new opportunities to provide greater impact.
A deliverable from the Preschool Development Grant was a five-year strategic plan that we use as our roadmap to facilitate collective commitment across the state to increase access and opportunity for children.