If you dropped your child off at day care this morning, you likely left them with a regulated provider. That means they have to follow a bunch of state rules created to make day care centers safer. But advocates say the state is not doing enough to improve one of those standards – specifically, the ratio of caretakers-to-children in each facility.
When a day care center gets its license from the state, is has to meet a slew of regulations. And one of them is how many caregivers they have for a certain number of children. For years, advocates have said that ratio is too high – that is, there aren’t enough adults around. Stephanie Rubin with Texans Care for Children said there is a good reason they are asking for that to change.
The standards for child care group sizes and ratios in Texas – for three-year-olds, for example – are the worst in the nation. So, the current minimum standards allow 15 three-year-olds with a single caregiver – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than seven three-year-olds per teacher.
Rubin said without adult-to-child ratios like that it’s nearly impossible to ensure all children are getting an adequate level of care. Every six years the department looks at the minimum standards for these child care licenses and suggests changes. This year, it wants to mandate a food allergy plan, safe sleep policies, updated vaccine requirements and e-cigarette bans. Rubin said she was working closely with the state agency in charge of regulating providers to also improve the kid-to-teacher ratio.
“We’ve been making progress with the department, we were optimistic,” she said.
But about two weeks ago, the state decided it won’t change the minimum standards.
“We have a real fear that if you require day cares to hire more employees, which is essentially what this would require, then they are going to pass those costs on to the families,” said Patrick Crimmins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. “And so, working families might be forced to use unregulated day care.”
Kim Kofron is with the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children. She said the state doesn't have enough data to make that conclusion, and the reason the state doesn’t have the information is because they stopped collecting it.
“We were really looking forward to collecting this data and finding out what percentage of our centers already are doing lower ratios to really get a better gauge of what that fiscal impact would be on programs.”
Crimmons said the agency decided to stop participating in that survey, which was a partnership with UT Austin, because of staff resources. This isn’t a done deal, though. Crimmins said this is just his agency’s recommendation to the Health and Human Services Commission. Public comment is expected to be open throughout the month of September.