By Jonathan Shorman
December 20, 2016

Parents will pay more for child care under a state of Kansas plan to increase training requirements for workers, providers warned Tuesday as they voiced opposition.

The proposed regulations from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment could still change, but most providers who showed up at a public hearing complained the rule changes would prove financially burdensome.

KDHE’s plan hikes the number of hours of annual in-service training needed for primary care providers — those most often directly supervising and interacting with children — to 16 hours. The change would require several additional hours for workers.

Administrators of preschools and child care centers would have to complete 24 hours of training annually.

Patty Bullock, her voice exasperated, said the rule change would force her to go to her seven professional teachers at Prince of Peace Preschool in Topeka, where she serves as director, and ask them to do more.

“The way that’s going to get accomplished is I’m going to have to go to the parents and ask them to pay more to do that. And that’s wrong,” Bullock told the dozens gathered at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library for the hearing. “I feel like my staff is very well-versed on topics of early childhood.”

Yes, she makes sure her staff has the required training hours now, but Bullock estimated they complete hours of off-the-books training through her own instruction. Training needs to be useful, not frivolous, she argued.

“I understand there are people that come in on entry level. I understand they need to be met at their needs,” Bullock said. “But I’ve got people that have been working for me for 19 years. They don’t need training on how to conduct a positive parent-teacher conference.”

Increasing costs leave parents with fewer options, said Kenneth Prost, director of the Lawrence Child Development Center. The higher cost may drive some parents to home day care, which he said is under-regulated.

KDHE says the regulatory changes are needed to implement federal requirements. In an economic impact statement, the agency said it is working with providers to ensure training requirements can be met and that a number of training opportunities are available at little or no cost.

The agency didn’t identify less costly or intrusive ways to accomplish its goals, the statement said. The increases in training requirements are “intended to better prepare licensees and caregivers in order to provide safe child care practices.”

In addition to augmented training requirements, the proposal increases regulations surrounding the administration of medication to children. It also allows child care providers to report suspected child abuse or neglect to law enforcement, in addition to the Department for Children and Families. It removes, however, the option of reporting suspected abuse to the district court.

Kansas Action for Children, an advocacy group that often weighs in on child-related legislation, has thrown its support behind the proposed regulations. Amanda Gress, the organization’s government relations director, said continuing education helps reduce the chance of injury to children and corrects safety problems.

“The proposed changes will improve the safety of Kansas children in child care and the quality of their early learning experiences,” Gress said.

Though several providers who spoke Tuesday voiced opposition or concern, some providers were supportive of the proposed changes. Amy Gottschamer, director of Googols of Learning in Lawrence, said she supports increasing the number of annual professional development hours.

“The argument that more training is cost-prohibitive, I believe, is a nonissue,” Gottschamer said. “The additional six hours required of teachers can easily be addressed through one professional development day per year.”

No concrete timeline exists for implementation of the regulations. If KDHE makes changes based on comments at the hearing, the alterations must be approved by the Department of Administration and the Attorney General’s Office.

Read more from the Topeka Capital Journal.