VA Gov. Youngkin says budget proposal prioritizes early learning and child care programs

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Thursday that the proposed budget he will soon unveil for the next two fiscal years will include an increase in state spending on early learning and child care programs.

The central aim of the proposal is to ensure that the end of federal pandemic-era funds that were used to expand those initiatives doesn’t leave families in the lurch, Youngkin said in a speech in Richmond. Without the increased allocations to improve the long-term viability of the programs, families would start to lose coverage in March 2024, he said.

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“At the heart of this is ensuring that we continue to serve the population being served today and that dollars follow the children on their parents’ best wishes,” he said.

The proposal is just one component of a full two-year budget plan the administration is developing, which Youngkin will present to state lawmakers on Dec. 20.

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Virginia governors’ introduced budgets typically go through substantial revisions — and Youngkin’s certainly will next year when Democrats are set to control both General Assembly chambers. But they can serve as a jumping-off point for negotiations and offer a roadmap of the chief executive’s priorities.

Governors often lay out pieces of their proposals in advance of their formal presentation, as a way to highlight certain elements or show public support for their ideas. Early childhood advocates and a group of young students from a child care center were on hand for Thursday’s speech.

According to Youngkin’s remarks and a broad outline released by his office, his budget will call for over $448 million in spending in each fiscal year for the initiative he’s calling “Building Blocks for Virginia Families.” The governor said that figure would represent an increase of $180 million from current levels in each year of the budget.

Part of the funding would help ensure low-income working families currently receiving public funding support continue to do so, according to his office.

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The initiative would also direct $25 million to a capital fund aimed at reducing child care deserts and allocate $10 million per year for “direct-to-child care education incentives” aimed at alleviating teacher shortages.

In his speech, Youngkin acknowledged the widely documented struggles U.S. parents face in trying to find and afford high-quality child care. He also cited reports about the number of women who left the workforce amid the pandemic due to child care-related concerns, and recalled his own mother picking him up from daycare, juggling parenting and work.

“This is about families. This is about moms,” he said.

The issue will also be a focus for House Democrats in the 2024 legislative session, said Morgan Hopkins, the caucus’ communications director.

“House Democrats have continuously emphasized the need to prioritize funding for our students, our teachers and especially early childhood education, and we look forward to doing just that in the Majority next session,” she said in a written statement.

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