Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lundberg sides with early childhood centers on proposed rules

Posted By on Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 2:08 PM

Sen. Kevin Lundberg
  • Sen. Kevin Lundberg

Early childhood centers will soon be operating under a number of revamped rules. This has Kathryn Hammerbeck, executive director of the Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado, nervous. While she is very clear that she sees nothing wrong with rules that protect the health and safety of the kids at these centers, she told us last month that she is concerned that the state is considering enacting rules that will be onerous and costly.

She hopes that she can convince the state to reconsider many of the regulations it is floating, and this week, she appears to have a new ally.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, speaking to the Denver Post about the potential of many new regulations imposed upon early childhood centers, said: "I think they're just ratcheting up to a whole new level of micromanagement."

As we reported, the Division of Child Care Licensing and Administration in the state Department of Human Services, has produced a 96-page "Proposed Child Care Center Rules" packet.

The packet was the outcome of a three-year process of discussions and meetings between state officials and stakeholders within the early childhood care world. But it wasn't the outcome that many of these stakeholders expected.

From 2008 until this past spring, [Kathryn] Hammerbeck, who's also executive director of the Early Childhood Education Association of Colorado, participated in a workgroup tasked with rewriting Colorado's licensing rules for centers that cater to young children. The rules are overseen by the Division of Child Care Licensing and Administration in the Department of Human Services; they apply, she says, to all commercial preschools and child-care centers.

At its last meeting in April, the workgroup agreed on a proposed rules package that Hammerbeck says would ensure children's health and safety.

"For the most part, I agreed with the rules that came out," she says. "I did not think that it was going to be burdensome."

To her surprise, however, DHS has since circulated a 96-page "Proposed Child Care Center Rules" packet, with a number of additions that Hammerbeck says she never saw.

"They did that without vetting any of these changes through the stakeholders group," she says. "And because they didn't get any input, they have some rules in there that make it really difficult for a provider to comply."

The 96 pages run quite a gamut.

For instance, one rule states that children shall not be required to participate in an activity if they don't want to. So if a provider schedules "circle time," but one little boy doesn't want to sit in a circle and sing or read with the group, that provider will have to offer two alternative activities.

To provide those activities, Hammerbeck says, there might be an additional staffing requirement.

Other mandates could also be costly. One would require a diapering station and a hand-washing sink for every 20 preschoolers. Never mind the fact that "preschool children are 3s and 4s, and could even be 5-year-olds," well beyond diapering age, Hammerbeck says. Or that older facilities may not have a hand-washing sink in every classroom, and that when she got a price quote for a hand-washing sink for one of her rooms, it was $5,000.

Read the rest, here.

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