SEEK still not on to see what else happened this week to impact providers!

NCLCCA-backed SEEK Provision Needs a Revision!

As we shared recently, your emails to legislators about your negative experiences with the SEEK swipe card system did make  difference!  Responding directly to requests from NCLCCA and its members, the NC House approved a provision to delay the statewide rollout of SEEK in its regulatory reform bill until after the General Assembly received a report on SEEK no later than March 15, 2015. 

However, the language was tweaked slighty in its final version, so we are now asking key House and Senate leaders to be sure the text is returned to the original wording prior to passing the bill out of conference committee.  

The original PCS language that was part of S493 said the report would go to the General Assembly by March 15, 2015, prior to implementing the use of the SEEK system data to make payments to child care providers.  The new language in S493 says the report would go to the General Assembly by March 15, 2015 prior to statewide implementation of the SEEK system.  Rob Kindsvatter, DCDEE Director, confirmed this week that this language still allows them to continue adding counties to the program and to pay providers based on SEEK data, as they have already started doing in one county.

We have not yet been able to confirm with legislators who asked for the change or why it was made, but it is very important to NCLCCA that the DCDEE does NOT continue to enroll additional counties and pay providers based on SEEK data until legislators have a chance to hear from both the Division AND providers about the serious problems the flawed SEEK system is causing providers and subsidy families.  We are fighting hard on behalf of our members who are impacted by SEEK to have this language changed back.

If SEEK is important to you, then you have an opportunity to weigh in with the following key legislators to help make a difference:

Please contact Representative Justin Burr, Representative Tim Moffitt, Representative Tom Murry and Representative Paul Stam, along with Senator Louis Pate and Senator Chad Barefoot at the email addresses below and tell them this:

“The SEEK provision in the House PCS for Senate Bill 493 does not help child care providers with this disastrous IT system.  The original language read: “prior to implementing the use of SEEK system data to make payments to child care providers” and new language reads “prior to statewide implementation of the SEEK system.”  Please change the SEEK provision to prevent the Division of Child Development and Early Education in DHHS from continuing to enroll counties in SEEK and make payments to providers based on SEEK data until you have had a chance to learn more about the flawed system from both the Division AND child care center owners, directors and staff.  Thank you for your time and attention to this urgent matter.”

We will keep you posted!

Curriculum Approval Process Moves Forward in Commission Sub-committee

Last Friday, the Curriculum Sub-Committee of the NC Child Care Commission met in Greensboro.  They were joined by several members of the original curriculum review team, and their goal was to explore ways to resolve the current curricula that are being grandfathered in as the Commission works on a revised curriculum review and approval process. 

Here are the highlights of the meeting, and the full Commission will review this at its next meeting on August 11 prior to approving any recommendations made by the sub-committee :
  • The group heard history from Catherine Scott-Little (head of the original curriculum review team) and a review of curriculum legislation from Jim Wellons, recently reappointed as counsel for the NC Child Care Commission.
  • The group revised some of the recommendations around which components were absolutes and which would allow “partially meets” as an acceptable score.
  • Any curriculum that will be upgraded to “recommended” status will be notified after the revised scoring is approved by the Commission. 
  • Any curriculum that does not result in a status change will be notified and be given an opportunity for re-submission.  They will have 120 days for the publisher or owner of the curriculum to submit additional information.
We are optimistic that the group will be able to move forward in a reasonable way.  There were several suggestions that came up during the conversation which we hope will guide the group as they outline a new process for future curriculum approval, including:
  • suggestion that the standards should be objective enough to be manageable if there are new applications or re-applications quarterly
  • goal is quality curricula, not to deny curricula or to have a certain number approved
  • need for a formal policy so everyone knows what is expected
  • decision is appealable so having informal appeal rights is better than having to spend time in court
  • need to re-examine (and make official) the definition of curriculum
One key conversation that was not heard, but that will be shared by NCLCCA with members of the Commission, was the need to give the publishers and owners an opportunity for dialogue, especially those who are right now still in limbo.  Up to this point, notices have been emailed or mailed and have not allowed for a back-and-forth conversation.  We hope that will change.

NCLCCA Celebrates Independent Legal Counsel for Child Care Commission!

Prior to a couple of years ago, the Child Care Commission and DCDEE had separate attorneys, and it worked well.  Both would be present during Commission meetings, and would give advice to their respective clients as needed.  For the last couple of years, there has been one attorney representing both.  It has concerned us because of potential conflict of interest and lack of independence when the same person represents an agency under the Governor as well as a Commission that includes legislative appointees.
We have raised the issue numerous times in the last couple of years with anyone who would listen, and someone apparently finally did!  During the Commission sub-committee meeting on Friday, Mr. Jim Wellons re-introduced himself as the “returning” counsel for the Child Care Commission.  He commented that he had missed serving the Commission and was glad to have the opportunity to return.  The Commissioners were glad to have someone with knowledge and history serving in his role. He confirmed that he is indeed only representing the Commission, and that Alexi Gruber will continue to represent the Division.
We are grateful to Glenda Weinert (Commission Chair), other Commission members past and present, and to any of you, our members, who have spoken up about this shared concern.  Well done!


State Budget Still Unsettled - No New Decisions Yet on Child Care Issues

State legislators have not yet reached an agreement on a new state budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which began July 1.  This means that the two year state-budget they passed last year remains in effect with no changes to child care items such as NC Pre-K or Subsidy.  It also means that potential subsidy market rate increases that were proposed by the state House (but not the Senate) remain in limbo for now.

The House and Senate have been at a standoff about how to fund the state’s Medicaid program and teacher pay raises, which has prevented budget negotiations on other items, including child care.  This week they seemed to have come to an agreement on Medicaid funding, which will hopefully start the negotiations on the rest of the budget next week after the July 4th holiday.

Because the House and Senate have been at each other for weeks over Medicaid and teacher pay raises, it is very difficult to predict when a budget agreement will be reached.  Most political insiders and observers believe that it will be worked out by the end of July, however.  After a budget deal is reached, legislators will move very quickly on any other bills they want to pass in order to adjourn the session and return to their districts before the November election.

As reported previously, the state House and Senate have addressed child care issues differently in their respective state budget proposals, and NCLCCA has supported the House budget proposal because of its position on important child care issues.  A recap is provided below:
  • The House budget proposal included $9 million for additional NC Pre-K slots and to cover any required teacher pay raises. (The Senate only included a $5 million NC Pre-K increase.)
  • The House proposed nearly $11 million for subsidy market rate increases, effective Jan. 1, 2015, and the increases would be based on the 2013 Market Rate Study and would equal 40% of the difference between the current rates and 2015 rates.  (The Senate did not include any funding for subsidy market rate increases.)
  • The House budget instructs DCDEE to use current Census data in the Subsidy Allocation Formula and to implement a 1/3 adjustment every two years for a total of six years.  It also includes a phase-in period to allow counties time to adjust and provides incentives for counties to spend their allocations on families who are eligible and waiting for services.  (The Senate instructs DCDEE to continue to use data from the 2000 Census to determine allocations per county.)
  • Both the House and Senate budgets proposed changing subsidy eligibility requirements, which means they are likely to be included in a final budget compromise.  The changes would mean some current subsidy-eligible families would no longer be eligible because of stricter income requirements; however, the legislative intent is that those slots would be filled with lower-income families on the waiting list.  (At this point, overall subsidy funding has not been decreased.)
  • Both budget proposals would eliminate the pro-ration of subsidy payments for part-time care.
  • Both budget proposals require a 10% of income subsidy copayment.
If you would like to show your support for the House budget when it comes to child care and early education issues, you may do so by sending an email or making a phone call to legislators on the State Budget Conference CommitteeClick here for a list of State Budget Conferees with contact information.  Your message is simple:
“Please fund much-needed, long-overdue market rate increases for child care providers who serve families in the subsidized child care program, as proposed by the House.  Thank you.


Be Safe, and Have a Happy 4th of  July holiday!

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