Between 60 and 70 day care centers in the District of Columbia may not meet minimum licensing requirements that go into effect this year for staff teachers' assistants, according to Robert Sauls, head of the department of certification in the Department of Human Resources (DHR).
Centers that do not comply with all of the new regulations could be closed, he said, adding that, "We have no choice but to enforce all parts of the regulations."
There are about 280 child care centers in the District caring for a total of more than 13,000 children. Enrollment at the centers varies from 8 to more than hundred children. Seventy-five percent are private centers, while the remaining 25 percent receive partial or full public funding.
Under a 1974 regulation setting minimum requirements for child care centers, teachers and their assistants are required to have completed specific education courses or have certain experience in child development by the time their centers' licenses are up for renewal this year.
Sauls said that his estimate of the number of centers that may not meet the requirements in time for license renewal is tentative, and that he will not know how many centers cannot meet the requirements until all license renewal dates have passed. The dates are scattered through the year. Centers are given an additional 30 days to comply when a license is refused. There are also several avenues of appeal for centers that are cited for non-compliance.
Sauls' estimate is considered low by Liz Campbell, an early childhood consultant, former HEW fellow and the head of New Dimensions, which provides technical assistance and training programs for day care center personnel.
She said that figures from district licensing personnel indicate that between 1,250 and 1,500 staff members needed additional education when the regulation went into effect two years ago. Although a few special courses have been organized and some teachers completed the requirements on their own, she says there are still hundreds of staff members who will not qualify in time.
Campbell believes the Department of Human Resources should have provided more information and assistance to staff members trying to comply with the regulation.
"They have had over two years to help centers meet these requirements," she said.
In spite of Campbell's concern, Sauls feels that his department is trying to make it as easy as possible for the centers to meet the requirements.
He said that his staff will accept proof of registration in the required college course as sufficient evidence of a center's intent to meet the standards. With the registration slip - provided other standards in the regulation are met - a license will be issued, Sauls said.
DHR also provided free college courses in child development, fede funded under Title 20, at Howard University last summer. Approximately 350 day care center teachers and directors who qualified for Title 20 programs took the course.
Before the session at Howard, Sauls estimated that fewer than a third of the District's child care centers did not meet the requirements.
Under the regulations, teachers are required to have either: A BA degree it early childhood education or a related field;
or two or more years of college, including at least 15 credit hours of childhood education and one year of experience in a child care center;
or a high school diploma or its equivalent, three years experience in a day care center and the college credit hours in early childhood education or a related field.
Assistant teachers need either:
Two or more years of college and must demonstrate the satisfaction of the director a competence with children;
or a high school diploma and a certificate in child development from an accredited vocational school or one year experience in a day care center.
Directors can meet their new requirements, which go into effect next July, with nine college credit hours or it equivalent in childhood education if they were already directors when the regulation was passed. Otherwise they would be required to have either:
An M.A. degree in childhood education;
or a B.A. degree and 12 hours of advanced study in childhood education;
or a B.A. degree and two years of experience in childcare.
or two years of college and five years of experience in child care.
Efforts are also being made to help staff teachers with limited education but with experience and talents for working with children become certified under the regulation, he said.
The District's Child Care Commission has proposed at addition to the regulation, now being studied by the City Council, that would allow an onsite certificate by a panel of child care experts and others interested in day care.
According to Helen Taylor of the Commission, members of a panel would observe the person at work and rate her or his competency in several specific area of child development.
Campbell believes that the regulations should have provide for a third alternative to college courses or on-site certification. She suggests that workshops, training sessions, and classes other than those at the college level could have been used to help staff members meet education requirements.
"I believe centers should have all three alternatives," Campbell said. Workshops and training classes, under an equivalent credit clause, would be cheaper for teachers than college courses.
She said many day care center budgets are tight, without enough funds to pay for college courses for the staff. Child development courses are taught at most area universities. At Howard, part-time students pay $64 per credit hour. At Georgetown University, tuition is $118 per cent hour. Campbell says that workshops could have been run for as little as $25 per session.
"The alternatives are for the center to replace the teacher or to reduce the teacher to an aide until the requirements can be met," Campbell said.
"At the very bottom of all this is that many families who are already experiencing the hardship of an inner city environment may be losing their source of child care. For that to happen to even one child is tragic."
Herman Cook, a child care specialist in Sauls' department said "There is a need for an all out push to encourage the staff personnel to meet the requirements. A lot of people still need training and it needs to be reasonable."
Christina Velarde at the Hispanic community's Sed Center, 1840 Kalorama Rd. NW, said that the center's teachers are paying for the courses out of their own pockets, but it is sometimes a burden. Velarde, speaking for Sed Center director Marie Agostini, said DHR gave no money or compensatory time off for the courses.
"The teachers use nap time at the center to take the required classes," she said. A few aides stay with the children while teachers attend classes, according to Velarde.
Illia Bullock, director of the City Wide Learning Center at 1036 Park Rd. NW, also feels tht the city should help pay for any courses or training that is required.
Teachers at her center recently completed all the college requirements. One teacher, with the college requirements completed but still lacking a high school diploma, is now working on her GED, general education diploma, a high-school equivalence certificate.
When HDR makes these regulations, she said, it should give money to help the teachers meet the regulations. "There are community people working here," she said.
The Rev. James Lewis at Zena's Day Care Center, 3703 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, said that his staff took the course at Howard this summer and his license has been renewed.
It funding is again made available, more courses for those who have yet to meet the requirements may be scheduled, Sauls said.