Letter to the Times: Legislators are exploring child care deregulation; here’s what the community should know

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns and letters to the Times written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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The Kansas Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony on SB 282, a bill that aims to change child care safety regulations by increasing the child-to-staff ratio, cutting annual staff training requirements in half, and lowering the minimum age of workers to 14 years. 

The bill’s proponents claim this will reduce onerous regulations and result in a greater number of child care slots across the state, thus increasing access to child care for working families. This is counterintuitive to what we know about the true contributors to the child care crisis. The struggle to recruit and retain child care professionals is a persistent problem predating the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the greatest barrier to recruitment and retention is a lack of good jobs in the field and exceptionally low wages. 

National organizations, agencies, and bipartisan research groups have identified ways to invest in the early childhood care and education workforce. These investments show great promise for recruiting and leveraging passionate and highly skilled professionals; the type of individuals we want caring for and educating our state’s children during their most formative time of development. 

The State of Kansas has followed suit with ongoing investments in the early childhood system, much of which is focused on the workforce, investments in early childhood environments, and improving child care access. 

Not only does SB 282 ignore the real factors contributing to the child care crisis in Kansas, but it also ignores the valuable investments state agencies and communities have made to overcome the root problems with our child care system. 

No action has been taken on SB 282 yet, so I call on our community to learn more about the State of Kansas’ strategic plan, called “All in for Kansas Kids,” and to be fundamentally opposed to legislation that threatens our current investments, the quality of life for the workforce, and the safety of young children. 

— Chavis Lickvar-Armstrong (she/her), MSE, Lawrence, is a licensed early childhood educator and a PhD candidate in the Special Education Department at the University of Kansas focusing on early childhood unified education. Her research explores early childhood systems and key factors that facilitate the meaningful inclusion of children with disabilities in community early childhood programs. 

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