SANTA FE (KRQE) – The state is talking about changing the rules for early childhood education programs but there’s new concern that it could hurt some parents.
The Children, Youth and Families Department is behind the change, pushing new standards for daycare centers to help kids learn more before they head off to kindergarten.
But some daycare center owners and workers say the changes could put them out of business or make them too expensive for a lot of parents.
Dozens of people gave CYFD an earful Thursday morning about these proposed changes. Many are worried that in setting the bar higher some of New Mexico’s poorest families will be left out and some daycare centers could be negatively affected.
“We want to keep quality child care as a business,” said Joy Lousy, President of the New Mexico Child Care Education Association.
“A lot of the other centers are just hanging on by a mere thread,” said Jeri Key, director of Generations of Learning early childhood education center in Roswell.
“We are already a quality program,” said Ellen Gore, director of the Guadalupe Montessori School in Silver City.
As dozens of child development center administrators packed a meeting room Tuesday, the comment mostly channeled concerns over the new regulations that will change how much the state reimburses programs that take care of kids before first grade.
“It’s kind of a shock when these regs, proposed regs came out,” said Rebecca Dow.
Dow owns the AppleTree Educational Center in Truth or Consequences. She says it’s the only licensed early childhood program in the city.
While Dow says the program has been successful, under a new CYFD plan, Dow’s program likely won’t meet all of the state’s narrowing accreditation standards.
By the end of 2017, the state wants all accredited daycare centers to meet one of two specific standards if they are to get the highest level of reimbursement for care provided. One of the types of accreditation would be through the state’s “FOCUS” program. The other would be through the “National Association for the Education of Young Children.”
Among some of the included standards in FOCUS would be smaller classes, more training and requiring workers with college degrees.
Currently, many child development centers are accredited, however, through various agencies. With the narrowing of standards, Dow worries that costs could go up for parents who take their kids to centers.
“As centers decrease ratios and maximum classroom sizes, the cost per child increases so for those families who pay privately, the cost must go up,” said Dow.
Centers that don’t meet the standards could lose some state money too, which could have a negative impact.
“Not be able to take state assisted children, receive a lower reimbursement for the state assisted children that they serve,” said Dow.
Many center owners testified Thursday it could put centers out of business, ultimately, leaving less help for low-income families
While CYFD says it understands the concerns, the agency says it will work with owners over the next three years to make sure they can meet standards without having to cut staff, raise prices or close doors.
“It is criteria that we continue to look at and we continue to work and embrace working with providers on getting their feedback. Because if it doesn’t work for small business and provides a disincentive, then it doesn’t work for us,” said Steve Hendrix, director of Early Childhood Services for CYFD.
CYFD says the new regulations go into effect next month. Existing early education providers have until December 2017 to meet the new accreditation standards.
As part of raising standards, CYFD says it will spend an additional $18.6 million each year to reimburse child development centers for the kids they serve.