On September 19th, the Council unanimously approved the Best Starts for Kids (BSK) implementation plan, which will govern how the $380 million collected over the six years of the levy will be spent. With this vote, King County and its residents embarked upon a unique and ambitious effort to change the trajectory of our community by investing in our youngest residents and their futures.
In the three months since we last blogged about BSK, the Council has heard from individual residents, families, community providers, and experts on what was good about the plan the Executive transmitted in June and what could be improved. With this input, the Council made many changes to clarify and strengthen the plan. One key change intensifies the County’s commitment to using data to evaluate the new programs to ensure they are delivering the intended results. In particular, the Council emphasized expanding the quantity and quality of data collected to understand the economic, racial, and health inequalities that might exist in King County and how to reduce them through focused funding.
One of the loudest messages from the community was that smaller organizations, which are often providing innovative solutions on shoe-string budgets, do not know about County funding opportunities and, if they do, do not have the ability to jump through all the County’s procurement hoops. In response, the Council set aside roughly $6 million a year for community outreach to let people know about BSK and for technical assistance to help small organizations apply for and manage BSK dollars.
Claudia heard from District 6 organizations and cities about the need to ensure that Eastside communities would be able to compete for BSK funds. As a result, she successfully advocated for changes to the plan:
- Because we live in a dynamic time and needs are shifting rapidly, Claudia requested language to make the plan more flexible and enhance the County’s ability to respond to emerging trends, rather than being locked into a set of services that might not fit future needs.
- Claudia understands that while there is great need in South King County for services, there are pockets of need throughout the County, including in District 6, that should not be overlooked. She made an amendment requiring that geographic inclusion be a criterion in how funds are distributed.
- In recognition of the fact that there are many different models and ways to provide services and that BSK seeks to find the most effective, Claudia added language to the plan that emphasizes flexibility and collaboration and recognizes that private non-profit agencies, public-private partnerships, or public agencies such as school districts can all compete for BSK dollars.
The Department of Community and Human Services has already started an intense, targeted community outreach process to let organizations know about what is in the BSK plan, how they can apply for funding, and what resources are available to help them through the application process. This effort also includes changes to the County’s procurement process to make it more accessible to organizations that do not usually apply for, let alone receive, County funds. The goal is to broaden the reach of the County and to find the best programs – existing and new – that will have the greatest positive impact on our children and young people.
To keep up with what comes next check out the BSK Blog.