Improving the reach and impact of Law 248/2015

TV Sport – Information campaign 248/2015 law (food coupons for kindergarten)

TV Sport – The importance of early education

Update: On April 3rd, the Parliament just passed new amendments for the 248/2015 law (food coupons for kindergarten), initiated by Reality Check. Out of 329 MPs, 327 were present, 326 voted in favor and 1 against. President Iohannis is to sign the new law in the immediate future and it will take effect starting Jan. 1st, 2021. There are 100,000 children who will benefit from this law.
The new law will: 
  1. change the eligibility criteria: from income of 248 lei/64 USD per family member per month, to all children who live in families that receive the supplementary family allowance (SFA) – this increases the threshold to 530 lei/120 USD per family member per month.
  2. simplify the application process, by completely eliminating the parents’ request to be admitted in the program – if the children live in families that benefit from SFA and are enrolled in preschool, they qualify automatically for the food coupons.
  3. increase the food coupon amount from 50 to 100 lei (from 11 to 22 USD) per child per month.
  4. make it mandatory for mayors and preschool principals to organize information and enrollment campaigns for the law, twice a year.

Romania has adopted several measures to promote early education, as the most effective measure to stimulate children’s brain development and reduce school drop-out. One of them was Law 248/2015 which stimulates impoverished children’s participation in preschool by providing food coupons conditional on attendance. The law is being applied since February 2016 with public funds allocated from the state budget. The incentive is given through a national interest program to prevent early school abandonment and is based on OvidiuRo’s Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță pilot program, implemented between 2010-2015 in 45 communities.

The estimated number of children who could benefit from this law varies from 111,000 (2016) and 107,000 (2017). On average, 70,000 children benefited from it in the first year: 2016-2017. In 2017-2018, 46,500 children were signed up for the program (from 62% to 43% of the children estimated as potential beneficiaries). For this school year, according to the Ministry of Education, only 33,000 children had been enrolled in the program by January 2019.

On average, between 65% and 71% of the children enrolled in the program attended preschool regularly.

In 2018, Reality Check conducted an evaluation study on how the law is being applied. We found that impediments to success include parents’ difficulty in applying for the law (they may not fully understand the application procedures, or might find it too difficult or too expensive to obtain the necessary documents, such as income statements released by tax offices in cities far to reach), misunderstanding about the methodology (wrong information of parents can lead to them being demotivated in applying), the small incentive amount compared to the cost of taking children to preschool every day, and social workers or teachers in certain communities not being proactive in recruiting impoverished children for preschool.

Based on our findings, we formulated a list of recommendations which we have already started to present to decision makers from the Government and to members of the Parliament. However, in order to really improve the reach of the law and the way it is being applied on the ground, a more structured and sustained effort is needed on three fronts:

  1. Revise and simplify the law and program methodology regarding eligibility, filing the application for the law, and meeting administrative requests;
  2. Conduct campaign to inform public authorities, teachers & parents about the importance of early education for all children;
  3. Clearly communicate to city hall employees, teachers, & parents the revisions to the law and involve county authorities and institutions in enforcing the application of the law.

We believe that by (1) Informing national decision makers, county & local authorities of the urgently needed improvements to the law and advocating for these changes in the law’s mechanism, and (2) executing an awareness campaign targeted to the relevant constituencies regarding the importance of early education AND the changes to the law, we can significantly increase the number of children qualifying and benefiting from the law starting September-October 2019.

In this project, Reality Check:

  1. Takes the lead in working with public authorities to revise the elements of the law that are hindering the broad implementation of Law 248/2015 in order to improve the reach and impact of the law, and
  2. Develops, together with OvidiuRo, an awareness campaign about early education targeted to public authorities, teachers, social workers and poor parents.

Our English summary of the evaluation report of Law 248/2018 is available here.

To read the full report (Romanian only), click here.

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