Published Date: 02/21/20
Washington state lawmakers have proposed a bill to make the childcare certification process cheaper and easier. This is in direct contrast to states, including Washington, who are increasing requirements to work in childcare. NAEYC’s Power to the Profession initiative also seeks to increase educational requirements.
It’s an interesting proposal. Rep. Tom Dent R-Moses Lake is the primary sponsor of House Bill 2556. Dent’s belief is that childcare regulations hurt the workforce and easing them will address the need for more affordable childcare.
Admittedly, I initially read that and thought it was a terrible idea. We’re already in crisis, with only 10% of providers in the United States considered quality, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. And while we’ve spoken out against increasing educational requirements for providers, we still believe that training and certification is paramount.
However, Dent is not entirely wrong. Childcare legislation is largely regressive, disproportionately affecting providers in low-income areas who are subject to the same qualifications and associated fees as their counterparts in higher income areas. And, based on that, providers of color and families of color are disproportionately affected. We’ve addressed some of the regressiveness of childcare regulation in a discussion around ratio laws.
During a House Human Services & Early Learning Committee hearing on January 28, 2020, Dent said, “My fear that I have with early learning — and it is happening — our providers are quitting and many of them are going underground.”
Missouri is seeing the impact of increased childcare regulation. Up until late last year, licensed providers did not have to count their own children in the license capacity. A new law requires them to, forcing them to terminate families who are then left scrambling for other options and often those options are unlicensed. Over half of Missourians live in childcare deserts, compounding the problem. A childcare desert is designated as an area where at least three times as many children reside as there are licensed childcare spots.
Maine is also facing problems with overregulation of childcare. Between 2008 and 2018 the state saw a loss of over 600 childcare providers, including one-fifth of the total licensed family childcare population. Also during this period Maine passed several new regulations and modifications to licensing laws. This leads to an increase in families using unlicensed care and an increase in the cost of licensed care. It’s basic supply and demand.
In Iowa, one-quarter of the population lives in childcare deserts and many are turning to unlicensed care to fill the gaps. The founder of a Cedar Rapids childcare Facebook group estimates that half of the providers in her network operate without a license.
According to the Office of the Child Advocate, Connecticut faced a rise in unlicensed care in 2016 after the state cut off subsidies for safe and regulated child care programs. Of nine toddler deaths at daycares in Connecticut in 2016 and 2017, six of them occurred in unlicensed home care settings.
And in Pennsylvania where unlicensed home daycares are permitted to accommodate three children, many are caring for significantly more, with the death of a 19-month-old in 2017 highlighting the problem. Reports said as many as nine children were being cared for at a time.
Dent’s intention in Washington is to make certification more accessible by providing community-based training routes and stipulating that certification cannot exceed $250 per person. The bill also calls for a review of avenues to provide technical school or college credit to providers in training.
Meanwhile, specifically in Washington state, childcare regulations have doubled over the last 14 years. In 2006 the Department of Early Learning was formed. A 62-page document addressing childcare immediately increased to 92-pages, and now stands at 124 pages of regulations - Chapter 110-300 WAC Foundational Quality Standards for Early Learning Programs. Spokane has seen the amount of home-based providers shrink from 550 to less than 100, according to Tim Benn, who runs a licensed home daycare in the area along with his wife, Shannon.
The latest round of certification requirements has family childcare providers returning to school to obtain an Early Childhood Education certificate and, according to Shannon Benn, “DCYF informed business owners and veteran providers that none of our previous educational training, none of our previous years of business operation, and none of our years of on-the-job experience would be considered in the educational equivalencies.”
Debbie Thurber, president of the Eastern Washington Family Day Care Association, says this change is an insult to the professionalism of experienced home childcare providers in the state.
As we've noted in the past, there's never been a study isolating the formal education credentials of childcare providers and the developmental outcomes of children and there's no evidence that providers without a college degree have a negative impact on the environment.
Fundamentally, this bill plays into a delicate balancing act of having properly trained providers and making that training affordable and accessible. But, that’s not enough. And decreasing regulation isn’t enough either. We need to ensure childcare providers get paid more for their services (read our thoughts on how that can happen). That is the most significant way we can increase access to affordable licensed care.
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