Monitoring of Law 248/2015 (Every Child in Preschool)

Law 248/2015 could help over 100.000 impoverished children each year to benefit from food coupons that could help them attend preschool regularly – but only less than half of the children benefit. In order to understand why the state doesn’t take full advantage of this opportunity, Reality Check has evaluated the way the law was applied in 2018 and proposed recommendations to increase its impact.

In 2019, we continue this project in three directions: advocacy to promote legal measures that will increase the impact of the law, a national information campaign among parents, teachers and social workers, and the development of a monitoring & evaluation mechanism for the law.

The Monitoring of Law 248/2015 is a project started by Reality Check in April 2018, with the financial support of the Civic Innovation Fund, a program developed by the Foundation for Civil Society Development FDSC, in partnership with the Romanian-American Foundation, and supported by Enel România, Raiffeisen Bank and Ursus Breweries. The results of our 2018 evaluation determined us to continue to monitor what happens with the law and to focus on an intensive campaign to improve the way it is applied. The first phase of this process is funded by The Alex Fund and is run in partnership with Asociația OvidiuRo.

Why this project?

Law 248/2015 scaled up the model proposed by OvidiuRo‘s Every Child in Preschool (Fiecare Copil în Grădiniță) pilot program and transformed it into national program, funded from the state budget. In the pilot, as in any conditional cash transfer program, the monitoring and evaluation had an essential role in achieving the goal of helping the poorest children attend preschool regularly. In Romania, the organizational constraints that public authorities face make them unable to monitor many of the laws they are responsible for. The same goes for Law 248/2015. Without a proper monitoring & evaluation of the law, we risk that it doesn’t reach its goal, and that public funds are spent inefficiently. Without a structured analysis of the reasons why the law doesn’t reach many of the poor children, and of the possible solutions, the authorities cannot adopt improvement measures.

Investments in early education are the most effective in stimulating children’s brain development and reducing school drop-out rates. Thus, Romania has adopted several measures to promote early education. One of them was Law 248/2015 which stimulates impoverished children’s participation in preschool by providing food coupons conditional on attendance. The law has been 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 for five years (2010-2015) in 45 communities.

In 2018, Reality Check conducted an evaluation study on how the law is being applied. We aimed to identify the conditions that determine the successful implementation of the program, in order to find out ways to support the localities where it is poorly executed.

Our study shows that there are more ways in which the program can be successful implemented, but for all of them it is necessary to have (1) a tolerant community and (2) at least one public institution, ideally the city hall, but possibly also the school, that takes on the role of driver for the program.

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. They include:

  1. A better information of all (city hall employees, teachers, parents) about the law and awareness regarding the importance of early education for all children;
  2. Revise and simplify the law regarding eligibility, filing the application for the law, and meeting administrative requests, and including more strict responsibilities for public workers to apply the law;
  3. National monitoring, evaluation and support, by involving county public authorities and institutions in monitoring and mentoring city hall and kindergarten employees and by continuing research and creating an annual analysis mechanism.