Thursday, April 29, 2010

Week In Review

State Capitol Week in Review

LITTLE ROCK – The state Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education is developing new standards for pre-school and child care centers, but legislators have been reluctant to sign off on them because of concerns about the cost of putting them in place.
The director of the Child Care Division told legislators that the new standards would be voluntary. However, one senator pointed out that in the future the voluntary standards could become mandatory standards. Many daycare centers operate with a narrow profit margin and a new set of costly regulations would be burdensome, he said.
Officials at the Division of Child Care say that federal grants are available to help daycare centers pay for improvements. Supporters and opponents of the new standards differ greatly in their estimates of how much they would cost to implement.
The new standards are labeled "Better Beginnings." They would put daycare centers into one of three categories, depending on the level of training the staff completes. The classifications would be public record.
The governor supports the new standards, and his office has said that they would not impose unrealistic financial burdens on daycare centers. Representatives of some daycare centers have expressed concern about the potential costs of "Better Beginnings," but other daycare centers are in favor of them.
Whenever a state agency proposes new regulations, lawmakers review them before they take effect. Twice in the past two months a panel of legislators has declined to accept the proposed childcare standards. In March and April the legislative subcommittee on Administrative Rules and Regulations deferred action on "Better Beginnings." The subcommittee has scheduled a third review of the new daycare standards for May 11 at the Capitol.
The Child Care Division has held a series of public hearings on the new standards throughout Arkansas. There is detailed information about the "New Beginnings" standards at the Child Care Division's web site, at this address:
The Division is changing the names of its grant programs, and as of July 1 will no longer mail paper copies of its newsletters. Owners of child care facilities will have to sign up for email newsletters and updates. The Division's main web page on the Internet is at this address:
The Division licenses more than 2,800 daycare centers that care for 170,000 young children. There are about 452,000 students in Arkansas schools from kindergarten through grade 12.
Foster Care Law Struck Down
A circuit judge in Pulaski County has stricken as unconstitutional an act approved by Arkansas voters that prohibited unmarried couples from adopting children or being foster parents. The law was Act 1 of 2008. The ruling be will appealed to the state Supreme Court.
The circuit judge ruled that the act placed restrictions on unmarried couples that it did not place on single people who want to adopt or become a foster parent, thus it violated equal protection provisions of the constitution. Supporters of Act 1 say that it is in the best interest of children in the foster care system.

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