QRS and the Low-Income Child Care Sector
Challenges facing the low-income child care sector are compounded by the requirements of the state's new quality rating system (QRS), which aims to improve child care by offering a graduated scale for reimbursements, based on quality enhancements. However, the reimbursements rates are too small to finance QRS requirements. We know from our examination of the pilot program that centers serving low-income working parents have two options: choose not to participate or raise fees (effectively excluding or pricing poor children out of the QRS). Either outcome will further exacerbate inequities that plague our state.
The Step Up Project: Identifing Barriers to Participation and Demonstrating Solutions
With a major grant from the Kellogg Foundation, MLICCI launched Step Up—a three-year operating project designed to:
- demonstrate what it costs for centers serving low-income families to successfully participate in the QRS;
- create detailed recommendations for providing resources so that poor children are not left behind; and
- examine whether/how other states have made quality improvements in their early care and education systems without making these critical services unaffordable for low-income working families—research that has not been done.
The project includes 20 representative low-income centers from across the state. Each receive technical assistance and financial support in the form of items needed to implement quality improvement plans to meet QRS entry requirements. Their progress is closely monitored and evaluated as the basis for an extensive study of the sector's needs.
The Step-Up Project grew out of a 2008 report commissioned by MLICCI to assess the impact of the new QRS system on low-income child care centers: MS Child Care Quality Impact Study.
For more information, contact:
Margie Van Meter, Step-Up Project Manager
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Jearlean Osborne, Step-Up Project Coordinator
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