Louisiana has unveiled new rules for child care centers as a part of a planned overhaul of the state’s pre-K system.
Officials at the state Department of Education say the changes will allow teachers to devote more time to the development of each child as well as learning.
“The proposed regulations also ensure that our preschool children are cared for and taught by qualified, competent and trustworthy individuals while maintaining health and safety requirements,” state Superintendent of Education John White said in the announcement.
The new regulations will be looked over by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at its next meeting on December 2-3.
The changes come as a result of a 2012 state law that was supposed to improve the pre-K system in the state. Critics said the law had varying degrees of quality and standards.
New changes would require all employees and volunteers to be subject to a fingerprint-based background check. Staff members must also be trained in pediatric first aid as well as administering medicines. In addition, centers will be required to post their licenses and daily schedules.
The department have been meeting with child care officials and others for a year to discuss the proposed changes.
Critics of the current pre-K system say that less than half of those who graduate from the program enter kindergarten academically prepared.
Alan Young, a member of the board of the Child Care Association of Louisiana said the new system would ensure that all pre-K students go to kindergarten ready to learn.
Meanwhile, financial assistance for child care within the state is harder to come by. Budget cuts in addition to stricter eligibility requirements are causing the number of families in the state who receive aid to drop by over 60% in the last five years.
According to state officials, not enough money exists in the budget to fund each and every child whose families apply for assistance. In 2011, families who made less than 75% of the average state income could apply for child care. As of 2012, that limit was cut to 55% of the average state income.
The federal program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families was created in 1996 in an effort to cover day care costs to allow welfare recipients to go back to work. States are given the funds, allowed to spend the money as they see fit, so long as it went to helping the poor.
However, states are continuously using the funds to aid other areas of their budgets that are in need as a result of the 2001 concession. For Louisiana, those areas include child welfare and its pre-kindergarten program.