Child care providers say they are equipped to help teach kindergarten to 4-year-olds

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This article was originally published on Wisconsin State Examiner.

Legislation that would require school districts with 4-year-old kindergarteners to collaborate with community child care providers got mixed reactions at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

Child care providers testified in favor of the proposal, AP-1035 / SP-973. It’s the only one of 10 child care bills Republicans have introduced this session that has broad support from people who work in child care.

Witnesses from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) — the state agency that oversees licensed child care providers in Wisconsin — spoke favorably of the goal of the proposal while raising questions about some of its details. Deputy Secretary Jeff Pirtle said DCF’s testimony was for information, not an endorsement or opposition.


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Department of Public Instruction (DPI), which is on its website Encourages the inclusion of child care providers in 4K programs, testified against the legislation. “From a value perspective, DPI is not opposed to using a community-based approach to growth,” said Tom McCarthy, deputy superintendent of the state DPI. [child care] Opportunities across the state,” but the bill presented problems as written.

legislation, It was introduced in Januaryaims to support child care providers by bringing back 4-year-olds, something many providers lost when school districts started 4K kindergarten programs.

This age group is considered the most economical for caregivers. Under state regulations, 4- to 5-year-olds need one teacher for up to 13 children. For younger ages, fewer children per teacher are allowed, with the lowest ratio for children two years or younger: one teacher for every four children.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, school districts in Wisconsin began expanding their 4K offerings, Pirtle testified Tuesday at a Senate Education Committee hearing. An Assembly hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Wisconsin allows schools to contract with licensed child care providers to implement their own 4K programs, known as 4K Community Collaboration or “hybrid delivery.” This has diminished significantly with the increasing number of regions undertaking programs themselves.

One in four Wisconsin school districts that offer 4K technology are partnering with child care providers, Pirtle said.

Rep. Karen Hurd (R-Fall Creek) told the committee that in conversations she and her Republican colleagues have had with providers over the past few months, the loss of 4,000 children “is one thing that has come up over and over again — what cuts the legs getting out from under the child care industry.” .

Providers are “left with a mix of more expensive, younger and more heavily staffed children to serve,” said Priya Bhatia, DCF’s director of early care and education. “This bill will provide greater stability and continuity of care for children and families.”

The legislation would require school districts that offer 4K kindergarten to contract with local child care providers to provide those classes if they want in addition to district-run 4K classes.

Recruiting more child care centers as 4K providers for public schools would also make it easier for parents who need “wrap-around care” — childcare before and after kindergarten classes, Bhatia said.

If families have to travel between a school’s 4K program for part of the day and a child care provider, “this causes disruption for children and can be a burden on families in transportation,” Bhatia said. “The 4K Community approach reduces these disruptions by providing a more seamless educational program and comprehensive experience in one place delivered by a provider that parents already know and trust.”

Bhatia said there are three key concerns that would make 4K community collaboration more successful if addressed in the bill:

A count of children at 4K equates to a full-time student under the state’s school funding system. 4K students are currently half of full-time students when accounting for state aid. Establish a payment formula for school districts that contract with child care providers that can be accepted by both parties to the contract.

The bill would require districts to pay at least 95% of local per-pupil funding for 4K students to providers who enroll those students, with the district retaining up to 5% for administrative costs. Bhatia suggested it would be appropriate for the child care provider and district to work to find the “right balance” between each party.

Ensure uniform licensing standards focused on 4K educators. Childcare providers have questioned DPI’s licensing criteria covering children from birth to third grade as being “more geared toward early and elementary education rather than 4K,” Bhatia said.

The legislation would require child care workers who teach in the 4K program to have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree and enroll in a bachelor’s degree program with a four-year schedule.

Differences in licensing standards between teachers working in school district 4K programs and those who work with that age group in child care centers is one issue that skeptics of the legislation have pointed out.

Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) questioned what he called “the elimination of professional standards for teachers in the bill.” The bill’s author, Rep. Joey Goeben (R-Hobart), reiterated the bill’s educational requirements for child care workers and emphasized that they would oversee DCF.

“These people are really taking care of these kids,” added Sen. Romain Quinn (R-Cameron), Senate author.

“But there is a difference between child care and school,” Larson answered, describing teachers as professionals with a degree.

“Early child care providers are professionals who have a college degree in early childhood education,” answered Goeben, a former child care provider, adding that “it’s a bit insulting to say that they would be less educated in their field.” And their experiences.”

McCarthy, of DPI, said one concern the department had was that requiring districts to contract with child care providers to provide 4K classes could conflict with growing interest in early literacy and reading under legislation passed in 2023. That law includes uniform standards for school curricula, while participating child care centers will have greater freedom in choosing their curriculum under the draft law.

McCarthy also questioned how contract child care providers respond to children with disabilities or other special needs.

Child care providers participating in the community collaboration have a good track record of helping children with special needs access services, said Corinne Hendrickson, a child care provider and organizer of the Advocacy and Support Network for Providers and Parents.

“Children with special needs are more likely to be identified and receive support in communities that collaborate, where the child welfare program knows who to talk to at school,” Hendrickson testified.

The legislation also supports federal funding changes that favor hybrid delivery, Hendrickson said. Other states have already begun to focus on community collaboration approaches “to encourage every child to access high-quality preschool without hindering access for working parents.” [for] “The care and education of all children between the ages of six weeks and 12 years,” she said.

Joan Beck, Dodge County’s child care director, said her center registered 4-year-olds but lost them to a 4K program that opened in her community. She said her staff sees parents as “our partners” while supporting them in the early learning and development of their children.

“We take education very seriously,” Beck said. “Our education begins at birth.” She added that DCF provided extensive oversight that contributed to the quality of its child care program.

“Instead of looking at it as such, we take [children] Outside of public schools, why not partner with public schools? Beck said. “See us as rational people who can do the job.”

Wisconsin State Examiner It is part of State Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. The Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Cunniff with questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow the Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook And Twitter.

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