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New Wash. Child Care Rules Are Aimed At Improving Quality But Will Likely Raise Costs

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo

New regulations are in the works for child care centers and people who run day care out of their homes. Washington state aims to align rules for different categories of child care and improve the quality of care.

But some child care center owners are warning that the rules being considered will force them to charge parents more. Washington already ranks among the 10 least affordable states for child care.

The Department of Early Learning spent about 10 months hashing out an update of the regulations with representatives from child care centers, family home providers, parents and other groups. The draft rules will be open for public comment starting around the beginning of May.

One big change is that by 2024, child care teachers will be required to have a higher level of education. For example, an assistant teacher in a child care center will have to have 12 credits in early childhood education. Right now, an assistant teacher is only required to have a high school diploma.

Julie Schroath, communications coordinator for a newly formed group called the Washington Childcare Centers Association, said child care centers are concerned their costs will go up and they’ll have to pass that on to families.

“As regulations increase, costs increase, and you can’t expect staff to be pushed to go back to college and obtain more education and not be paid better,” said Schroath, who owns a child care center in Kitsap County.

The state is working on establishing equivalencies for teachers so those with a lot of experience will not necessarily have to go back to college.

Department of Early Learning Director Heather Moss said the state realized it needed to align regulations and make them less confusing. It also wanted to make sure children get quality care, which is why the rules set higher education requirements for teachers.

“The early brain research shows and early research on child outcomes shows that there’s a high correlation between the education of the child care provider and the outcomes for the child that they care for,” Moss said.

Moss said higher costs are a concern but not a reason to delay improving quality of child care. The issue of affordability is something that government and employers should address, she said.

“We need to figure out how to help all families afford child care because right now child care is one of the most expensive costs that families with young children have,” Moss said.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.