Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rep. Pettigrew takes early learning up a grade

On Friday, the House Committee on Commerce & Labor will vote on Rep. Eric Pettigrew’s HB 1329, which addresses the need to prepare children for the future by providing them with a top notch education from the start.

“My motivation for sponsoring this bill is about one thing, and that is about children,” Pettigrew said during last week’s public hearing in front of the House Committee on Commerce & Labor.

HB 1329 creates an opportunity for child care directors and workers to collectively bargain with the state over matters within the state's purview to improve the quality of child care for Washington families.

Last year, a similar version of Pettigrew’s bill passed the House, but it was brought to a halt in the Senate. A number of notable changes are included in this year’s HB 1329. One significant alteration is that the bill requires the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to adjust subsidy rates for all child care centers in a DSHS region in order to match the rates reached through collective bargaining agreements for the same region. This means that even facilities that don’t participate in collective bargaining negotiations will still receive the negotiated increase subsidy rates.

This year, sponsors of HB 1329 include more than thirty representatives. In the Senate, Sen. Chris Marr (D-Spokane) has introduced SB 5572, which also provides collective bargaining for child care center directors and workers.

“When we talk about quality and we talk about invests we’ve made as it relates to early learning, an inconsistent system is not the way to go,” Pettigrew said. “This legislation actually provides us with an opportunity to create a more consistent system and close the gap between what we provide in dollars and what high quality learning actually costs.”