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The Horizons Act – a big spend for a big goal.

Sen. Danny Carroll’s bill would put $300 million toward early childhood education over the next two years.

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Republican Sen. Danny Carroll unveils his proposed $300 million child care relief package at a news conference in this Feb. 13 photo. Addressing the Kentucky Senate Families and Children Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 20, Carroll said the state must invest in early childhood education. (photo from the Public Information Office of the Legislative Research Commission)

Sen. Danny Carroll (R-Benton) has filed a bill he is calling the “Horizons Act” – a $300 million investment in early childhood education in Kentucky over the next two years.

The bill, SB 203, was discussed in the Senate Families and Children Committee on Tuesday, but not voted on. Carroll thinks it may come up for a committee vote as early as next week, and says “the support for this is growing every day.”

The timing of the bill is critical, as the Federal support provided during the pandemic is ending. Without a replacement for that funding, many child care centers across the state will close. And not only is that a problem for families; it is also a problem for employers, as parents without child care options will have to stop working in order to care for their children.

Carroll insists, though, that this is not about “child care.” Pointing out that significant brain development happens before the age of 5, he said, “It’s not child care, it’s not day care, it’s education. ... We must think of education as not K through 12, but birth through 12.”

What does the bill do?

  • Puts in place expanded qualifications for childcare assistance.
  • Expands grant funds for providers to increase availability.
  • Makes financial support only available to entities licensed or certified by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
  • Establishes an associate’s degree program for “interdisciplinary early childhood education entrepreneurship” in the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.
  • Adds a new agency, the Division of Early Childhood Education, to the Cabinet for Heath and Family Services.

Some critics of the bill say it doesn’t do enough to establish curriculum and standards for providers across the state. But Rina Gratz, the director for Early Childhood and Primary Education Policy and Practice at the Prichard Committee, said, “There are existing early childhood education standards with the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood,” Gratz said. “We already have early childhood education standards, and meeting those education, early childhood education standards, is something that all early childhood education providers already have to do.”

What about Gov. Beshear’s push for universal pre-K?

In his budget proposal, Gov. Beshear asked for $141 million for child care assistance across the two-year budget, and added an additional $344 million request for universal pre-K alone. The universal pre-K would be implemented through the school systems.

The governor’s office responded to Carroll’s bill with this statement: “Pairing universal pre-K with an investment in early childhood child care is the only way we ensure we have additional coverage in every county, in every part of Kentucky. Sen. Carroll should identify which systems he claims can’t do this because the Kentucky Department of Education believes they can, and they put it in their budget request. Our plan also recognizes that we are asking the childcare industry to change — to have the flexibility to focus on younger kids — and that’s why we added additional funding in our budget proposal to help make that transition possible.”

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Summarized from articles at Fox 56 News, the Paducah Sun, and the Kentucky Lantern.



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