How Three States Are Focusing on Early Childhood Educators

Missouri, Oklahoma, and Virginia passed noteworthy legislation focused on their early childhood workforce
Blog Post
March 17, 2017

In 2016, more than 120 bills related to early childhood were passed in 38 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Early Care and Education 2016 State Legislative Action. But three states in particular (Missouri, Oklahoma, and Virginia)  passed noteworthy legislation focused on their early childhood workforce.

The Missouri legislature passed HB 2002

, which provides grants to higher education institutions and technical schools for the Child Development Associate (CDA) Certificate program. (The bill provides no additional details on those grants.) The Child Development Associate Certificate is a nationally recognized license for early childhood educators that requires a high school degree as well as 120 hours of formal early childhood education training and 480 hours of professional work experience. Currently, assistant public pre-K teachers in Missouri are required to have a CDA certificate and directors of Missouri child care centers with less than 20 students are required to have a CDA certificate or equivalent experience. While a CDA is a good beginning credential, more experience and education is needed to provide high-quality education for early learners. Presumably, the grants would provide additional access to individuals pursuing a CDA. Additionally, since public pre-K teachers in Missouri are required to have a four-year-degree, funds should also be directed toward expanding and improving early childhood education degree programs.

In Oklahoma, the state legislature passed SB 1554, requiring that all directors of child care centers have either a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or childhood development or, alternatively, a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience working with children aged 0-12. According to a report from New America, 10 states still allow individuals to direct child care centers with the minimum of a high school diploma. (We’ll be releasing new data on state requirements for directors in May.) While most states do require center directors to possess at least a CDA, education requirements vary widely across states. Oklahoma’s move to increase the educational requirements for center directors is an encouraging one since directors have many of the same responsibilities as elementary school principals.

Lastly, the state of Virginia created the School Readiness Committee to develop and align an “effective professional development and credentialing system for the early childhood education workforce.” Duties of the task force include reviewing teacher licensing and education programs, aligning existing professional development funding streams, and creating innovative approaches to increase “accessibility, availability and affordability of the workforce development system” in Virginia. The task force is also charged with considering articulation agreements between associate and bachelor degree programs. This is an important step for smoothing pathways for future teachers who might begin their studies at a community college and then decide to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.

In addition to workforce policies, other laws passed in 2016 related to early childhood include limiting expulsions and suspensions of pre-K students in New Jersey, educating Georgia caregivers on reducing infant sleep-related deaths, and creating a task force to assess child care affordability issues in Minnesota. As we’ve mentioned before, many states have made changes to comply with the new health and safety requirements under the recently reauthorized Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). For example, several states codified conducting comprehensive background checks for child care personnel. And, in Connecticut every household member within a family child care setting who is 16 years of age or older are now required to undergo a criminal history record check as well as a check of the state’s child abuse registry.

For more information about efforts to strengthen the ECE workforce, check out our new dedicated page, "Thriving Workforce; Thriving Early Learners” and for more information and other early care and education enacted legislation take a look at NCSL’s full report.