Section 2. There shall be in the executive office of education a department of early education and care, in this chapter called the department, which shall be the state agency responsible for compliance with early education and care services under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-193), or any successor federal statute. The department shall be the state education agency for the purposes of early education and care services under federal law. The department shall seek, apply for and encourage the use of any federal funds for early education and care services, and shall facilitate the coordination of federal, state, and local policies concerning early education and care. The department shall be under the supervision and management of the commissioner of early education and care, in this chapter called the commissioner.
The department shall:--
(a) be the lead agency of the commonwealth for administering and providing early education and care programs and services to children;
(b) provide early education and care programs and mental health consultation and other support services for children in the commonwealth through grants, contracting for those programs and services, and providing vouchers to participants, and promote the coordination of all such programs and services;
(c) license or approve child care centers, school-aged child care programs, family child care homes and large family child care homes, family foster care which is not supervised and approved by a placement agency, placement agencies, group care facilities, or temporary shelter facilities;
(d) develop and maintain a current consolidated waiting list for all subsidized early education and care programs, and services in the commonwealth;
(e) establish and develop a schedule for revising: (1) a rate structure for voucher and contracted payments to providers of subsidized early education and care programs and services on behalf of low-income and other at-risk children; and (2) a sliding fee scale for participants in those programs. A public hearing under chapter 30A and the approval of the board shall be required before the establishment or revision of the rate structure and sliding fee scale;
(f) manage and implement the Massachusetts universal pre-kindergarten program, established in section 13, that may be phased in over a period of time as determined by the board, and ensure the universal accessibility to the program by using the sliding fee scale developed for early education and care programs;
(g) after a public hearing, adopt criteria including income eligibility requirements, for determining eligibility for an early education and care program or service, including the universal pre-kindergarten program under this chapter and develop a schedule for revising such criteria. Income eligibility requirements shall include a maximum allowable income for working families;
(h) monitor and evaluate on an ongoing basis all early education and care programs and services, including program outcomes in meeting the developmental and educational needs of all children;
(i) analyze and evaluate all budget requests for early education and care programs and services, including requests from secretaries, departments, agencies, or other offices within the commonwealth and make recommendations to the secretary of education, general court, appropriate secretaries, departments, agencies, or other offices regarding coordination and approval of those budget requests;
(j) lease, purchase, hold and dispose of personal and real property it considers necessary to carry out this chapter;
(k) seek to increase the availability of early education and care programs and services and encourage all providers of those programs and services to work together to create an array of options allowing families to select programs that fit with their schedules;
(l) provide information and referral to persons seeking early education and care programs and services;
(m) work in conjunction with the department of transitional assistance to obtain federal reimbursement under the federal Social Security Act for all participants in publicly-funded early education and care programs and services who are eligible;
(n) promote the development of early education and care services for children by seeking and accepting federal grants as well as assisting other agencies of the commonwealth and local agencies to take full advantage of all federal funds available for those services;
(o) provide technical assistance and consultation to providers and potential providers of early education and care services;
(p) facilitate the development of the early education and care workforce, and, when appropriate, provide for training programs and professional development for persons offering early education and care programs and services;
(q) establish and regularly update: (1) a comprehensive database of early childhood educators and providers, hereinafter referred to as the educator database, for the purpose of enhancing the workforce development system; and (2) a comprehensive database of children both waiting for and receiving early education and care services, in this chapter called the student database, that is compatible with relevant databases at the department of elementary and secondary education and the executive office of health and human services; and
(r) collect and disseminate information to assist parents in nurturing their children's development and education. This information shall be made widely available in written form and accessible through the department's website, in English and other commonly spoken languages in the commonwealth.
(s) plan for and address the unique needs of families with infants and toddlers, including providing parent education, early literacy services and meaningful opportunities for families not enrolled in early education and care to support their children's development.
(t) subject to appropriation, provide consultation services and workforce development to meet the behavioral health needs of children in early education and care programs, giving preference to those services designed to prevent expulsions and suspensions.
(u) subject to appropriation and notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, assure quality early education and care provided to children through family child care providers by working cooperatively with family child care providers to build upon the existing system and continuously improve the delivery of high quality early education and care services for eligible low income families through providers who have the requisite skills and training.