Legislation and rulemaking can be used to codify and sustain programs, policies, organizations, and early learning systems. A key strength of legislation and rulemaking is durability, which is one of the reasons to pursue this option as part of sustainability planning and implementation. At the same time, there are potential downsides to the use of legislation and regulation as methods to achieve sustainability. For example, legislation and regulations may limit the ability to modify program design, policy, organization, and the early learning system in the future.
Depending on your state’s context, legislation or regulation may not be achievable even when the critical stakeholders are in support of changes that would be beneficial. There are many stakeholders who affect both the process and results of passing legislation and finalizing rulemaking. Carefully considered plans for codification may be affected by other interests and plans, and may lead to different results, for better or worse. As you evaluate this strategy’s role in your sustainability plan, it is important to consider the full range of potential positive and negative consequences of a legislative or regulatory approach.
If authorizing legislation or regulation is selected as part of the implementation plan, a thorough approach to drafting is essential. Be certain to determine the most effective strategy for the drafting (for example, breadth versus depth in the legislation and regulations), ensuring that critical issues are not overlooked. Take time to identify the potential consequences from the options selected for a legislative approach.
Examples of Legislation at the Program, Organizational, and Systems Level
At the program level
- Florida’s Voluntary Pre-K program was established through legislation:
- Nebraska’s Early Childhood Education Endowment Program, Sixpence, was authorized by legislation:
At the organizational level
The following state early learning agencies were established through legislation to help sustain and grow early learning efforts:
- Connecticut Office of Early Childhood
- Georgia Bright from the Start: Department of Early Care and Learning
- Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
At the System Level
Legislation has been used for quality systems development and sustainability, as indicated by the following examples:
- Washington passed the Early Start Act in 2015, comprehensive legislation based on the state’s strategic plan and its Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge work.
- The Florida legislature passed a bill that increases quality and accountability in the school-readiness program (state child care subsidy program). The legislation requires the Office of Early Learning to develop rules to implement the new requirements. School-readiness programs must participate in an annual program assessment with a minimum score requirement to contract for the school-readiness program.