As the pandemic wears on, and the ECE workforce challenges continue, we’re seeing more attempts by state policymakers to relax standards and regulations around group size and adult-child ratios in child care programs. While past efforts have been motivated at least in part by anti-regulation and small-government rationales, these recent attempts are often in response to a lack of staff and/or available slots in the community.
The Alliance for Early Success hosted a “huddle” with state advocates to discuss how to respond to this issue. During the huddle, we heard from state allies who shared their experiences and lessons learned. The discussion highlighted the importance of continuously building authentic relationships and partnerships with providers, educators, and families who can be advocacy partners and leaders when these kinds of threats emerge. State allies talked about the importance of holding frequent coalition meetings with providers and educators to monitor legislative developments and unite behind a coherent strategy. Advocates also elevated messaging that stresses the negative impact these bills have on the children’s safety, staff retention and ultimately, supply of care, by creating more challenging working conditions for early childhood educators. Additional strategies include elevating new voices and unusual suspects, such as business leaders or pediatricians, who could be compelling messengers with policymakers.
We also heard from our national partners at Child Care Aware of America and NAEYC who shared some great resources and insights from working with their affiliates throughout the county. National advocates shared the importance of using strategic data and evidence to make the case for maintaining standards like group size and ratios, For example, providing analysis that regulations are not related to the lack of child care supply, or real-life evidence of how relaxing these standards harm children are ways to defend changes to standards and regulations. Lastly, advocates emphasized how working with policymakers on streamlining or “modernizing” regulations to remove burdens from providers and families, while maintaining safety and quality, could be a proactive strategy.
Lastly, Elliot Haspel from the Robins Foundation wrote a recent opinion piece that includes Iowa’s proposed legislation that was spoken about during the call. The short article provides some additional talking points and resources throughout.
Our Child Care Crisis is the Result of Underinvestment, not Overregulation, NAEYC (2020)
Opinion: Raising Child Care Ratios is a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Idea, Haspel, E. (2022)
Standards and Licensing, U.S Department of Health and Human Services (2022)
Child Care Licensing Benchmark Project, CCAoA (2020)