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Missouri will, in fact, Race to the Top!

June 23, 2014


Julia Auch, Early Childhood Literacy Specialist

Julia Auch, Early Childhood Literacy Specialist

In an editorial written on June 20th, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that a “brighter day is dawning for day care in Missouri.”  Under new legislation anxiously awaiting Governor Jay Nixon’s signature (Senate Bill 869), unlicensed day care programs in Missouri – of which there are currently about 3,900 – will experience tighter regulations if they are to continue receiving state subsidies.

The Department of Health and Senior Services monitors and inspects licensed and licensed-exempt child cares, and under this legislation, the Department of Social Services will oversee the process of inspecting unlicensed day care centers.  Getting this kind of oversight in place is a pretty big deal, as you can imagine.  According to the Post, “the day care subsidy program, which uses state and federal funds, paid out $149 million last year and served about 39,000 kids.  About $38 million of that money — a quarter of the federal and state subsidies — went to day care centers that had almost no state oversight or inspections.”

Now I would imagine you’re asking yourself, “Why are unlicensed centers receiving state funding?”  I would imagine many people are, and I myself have already grappled with this dilemma.  We could spend a great deal of time debating this issue, but the bottom line is this… for a variety of reasons, many associated with cost one could assume, parents are placing their children in unlicensed facilities.  A new study, published in Child Development (“Child Care Subsidies: Do They Impact the Quality of Care Children Experience?”), found that low-income parents who used federal child care subsidies tended to sign up for lower-quality care for their children than other low-income parents that registered for Head Start or state-funded Pre-K.  Early childhood advocates have been trying to put stricter policies in place to improve health and safety standards for years, and especially after a 2011 report indicating that at least 50 children were the victims of accidental deaths in unlicensed facilities; deaths that could have been avoided had tighter regulations been in place.

A system of quality indicators has been woven into this legislation, as well, which has thrilled early childhood advocates, including Erin Brower, Vice President of the Alliance for Childhood Education.  Not only will this set standards for quality care, but will include an improvement piece, as well, to assist these programs with the needed support and resources to make necessary changes to their programs.

I would love to believe that this legislation finally passed because it’s the right thing to do, and we understand the importance of health and safety standards, and yada yada yada, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Missouri stood to lose more than $100 million in federal funding if it did not comply with federal oversight standards expected to be in place by fall 2015.  Regardless of the motivation, this is a WIN for Missouri’s children!

UPDATE as of July 9th…

Missouri State Representative Jeremy LaFaver just signed SB869 and HB1831!  This is a win for Missouri’s children!  Nixon said the bills are necessary for Missouri to continue to receive more than $100 million annually in federal funding that helps offset child-care costs for lower-income families.  Changes will go into effect October 2015.

signing the bill


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