Unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the definitions in this section apply throughout RCW 43.216.500 through 43.216.559, 43.216.900, and 43.216.901.
"Advisory committee" means the advisory committee under RCW 43.216.520.
"Approved programs" means those state-supported education and special assistance programs which are recognized by the department as meeting the minimum program rules adopted by the department to qualify under RCW 43.216.500 through 43.216.550, 43.216.900, and 43.216.901 and are designated as eligible for funding by the department under RCW 43.216.530 and 43.216.540.
"Comprehensive" means an assistance program that focuses on the needs of the child and includes education, health, and family support services.
"Eligible child" means a three to five-year old child who is not age-eligible for kindergarten, is not a participant in a federal or state program providing comprehensive services, and who:
Has a family income at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level, as published annually by the federal department of health and human services;
Is experiencing homelessness;
Is Indian as defined in rule by the department after consultation and agreement with Washington state's federally recognized tribes pursuant to section 5 of this act and is at or below 110 percent of federal poverty level, as published annually by the federal department of health and human services;
Is eligible for special education due to disability under RCW 28A.155.020; or
Meets criteria under rules adopted by the department if the number of such children equals not more than 10 percent of the total enrollment in the early childhood program. Preference for enrollment in this group shall be given to children from families with the lowest income, children in foster care, or to eligible children from families with multiple needs.
"Experiencing homelessness" means a child without a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence as described in the federal McKinney-Vento homeless assistance act (42 U.S.C., chapter 119, subchapter VI, part B) as it existed on January 1, 2021.
"Family support services" means providing opportunities for parents to:
Actively participate in their child's early childhood program;
Increase their knowledge of child development and parenting skills;
Further their education and training;
Increase their ability to use needed services in the community;
Increase their self-reliance.
"Instructional hours" means those hours children are provided the opportunity to engage in educational activities planned by and under the direction of staff in approved programs, as defined in subsection (2) of this section, inclusive of intermissions for class changes, recess, and teacher/parent-guardian conferences that are planned and scheduled by the approved program for the purpose of discussing students' educational needs or progress, and time spent for meals or rest.
The department shall adopt rules under chapter 34.05 RCW for the administration of the early childhood education and assistance program. Approved early childhood education and assistance programs shall conduct needs assessments of their service area and identify any targeted groups of children, to include but not be limited to children of seasonal and migrant farmworkers and native American populations living either on or off reservation. Approved early childhood education and assistance programs shall provide to the department a service delivery plan, to the extent practicable, that addresses these targeted populations.
The department, in developing rules for the early childhood education and assistance program, shall consult with the early learning advisory council, and shall consider such factors as coordination with existing head start and other early childhood programs, the preparation necessary for instructors, qualifications of instructors, adequate space and equipment, and special transportation needs. The rules shall specifically require the early childhood programs to provide for parental involvement in participation with their child's program, in local program policy decisions, in development and revision of service delivery systems, and in parent education and training.
By January 1, 2016, the department shall adopt rules requiring early childhood education and assistance program employees who have access to children to submit to a fingerprint background check. Fingerprint background check procedures for the early childhood education and assistance program shall be the same as the background check procedures in RCW 43.216.270.
By January 1, 2023, the department shall adopt rules outlining the requirements related to educational activities and comprehensive services required to meet the entitlement defined in RCW 43.216.556.
Funding for the program of early learning established under this chapter must be appropriated to the department. The department shall distribute funding to approved early childhood education and assistance program contractors on the basis of eligible children enrolled.
The program shall be implemented in phases, so that full implementation is achieved in the 2026-27 school year.
Funding shall continue to be phased in until full statewide implementation of the early learning program is achieved in the 2026-27 school year, at which time any eligible child is entitled to be enrolled in the program. Entitlement under this section is voluntary enrollment in a full day program.
School districts and approved community‑based early learning providers may contract with the department to provide services under the program. The department shall collaborate with school districts, community‑based providers, and educational service districts to promote an adequate supply of approved providers.
The department must consult, and obtain the advice and consent of, the governing bodies of the state's federally recognized tribes in developing an agreed-upon definition of the term "Indian" for the purposes of RCW 43.216.505 and, by July 1, 2024, must adopt the definition in rule.
This section expires December 1, 2030.