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Carney, Bunting announce restructuring of early childhood governance

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Gov. John Carney and Secretary of Education Susan Bunting announced May 29 that early childhood governance will be further consolidated at the Delaware Department of Education.

This announcement builds on the work started by Senate Bill 187, which moves the Office of Child Care Licensing from the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families to DOE. Prior to this move, early childhood governance was fragmented across 11 different divisions in three separate state agencies — Department of Health and Social Services, DOE and DSCYF. The overall goal is to eventually shift as many components of early learning into one agency, to prevent duplications, increase efficiencies and elevate the importance of early learning and child care in Delaware.

The new associate secretary will oversee the Office of Early Learning, OCCL and future consolidated workflows from DHSS, which will all comprise the new Early Childhood Support Team. The associate secretary position will come from repurposing existing vacancies so as to not create an additional position. This also creates a final decision maker for early childhood questions and adds important accountability to early childhood education in Delaware. The associate secretary will report directly to Bunting and will be part of the DOE’s leadership team.

“We know that a substantial percentage of brain development takes place before the age of five,” said Carney. “Early childhood experiences are critical to a child’s success in school and in life. By consolidating governance and creating a single point of accountability, we can better support programs, families, children and our great early childhood workforce.”

Bunting said many states struggle with a fragmented early childhood system.

“By consolidating much of early childhood within the Department of Education, we can support efficiency, coordination and important accountability to this work,” said Bunting. “Aligning most of early childhood at the department will also enable a consistent birth to high school graduation continuum. We will be conducting a statewide and national search for a proven leader to drive this work.”

The legislators who led the work to consolidate early childhood services expressed support for the announcement.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Poore, sponsor of SB187, is a strong proponent of early childhood initiatives.

“For years, Delaware’s early childhood workforce has stepped up to provide critical early education and care while navigating a complex bureaucracy and regulatory system,” said Poore. “I want to commend the Delaware Department of Education for recognizing that the time has come to support educators and families by streamlining this system and allowing professionals to focus on providing the best possible start for our youngest citizens.”

“One of the reasons I sponsored SB187 was in the hopes that it would make things easier for parents and children,” said Rep. Kim Williams. “Having this crucial work spread out over three state agencies for as long as we can remember has fractured the work instead of uniting it. This is a great step in aligning services for our earliest learners.”

The news also has the backing of Delaware Early Childhood Council Chair Madeleine Bayard.

“We thank Gov. Carney and Secretary Bunting for their leadership elevating and consolidating early childhood governance,” said Bayard. “This is a positive step forward to align early learning with K-12 education while preserving the holistic, two-generation approaches we know are critical in children’s early years. The DECC looks forward to partnering to strengthen this commitment to better serve our community.”

The consolidation will make navigating the system easier for child care providers.

“As a provider, this is exciting news,” said Cheryl Clendaniel, administrator at The Learning Center in Milford. “We work with DSCYF, DOE and DHSS and look forward to the beginning of streamlining efforts for our children, families and teams by having all of these services under one roof at DOE.”

"We look forward to continuing to work with our friends at DOE to ensure that any alignments are well-planned and streamline processes that benefit children and their families,” said DHSS Secretary Kara Odom Walker. “This work started long before Secretary Bunting and I were in our roles but I am happy we have been able to work so hard together with our teams to reach this goal."

Delaware State University President Tony Allen has long advocated for elevating and aligning the early childhood system.

“Early learning initiatives that help us better align services to the needs of children from early childhood through K-12 are critical to improving public education,” said Allen. “This will be very beneficial for the work underway at the university, particularly in our early childhood education teacher preparation program and the Lab School. Both are helping ensure Promise Communities have excellent teachers serving the students who need them most."

Find the job posting at bit.ly/3cwAQlJ.