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Politics & Government

Childcare "stabilization" bill debated in committee

Child care providers in North Dakota want a Senate committee to go back to the original intent of a House bill that provided  $15.4 million in state grants to help child care operations.

"I hate to use the word 'band-aid,' but that's exactly what it is," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kathy Hawken (R-Fargo) told the Senate Human Services Committee.  She says it is meant to be a “child care stabilization fund.” But she told the Committee the House added amendments – that allow more children per teacher in the day care settings.

"The Department of Human Services is much better qualified to decide ratios and numbers than the North Dakota Legislature," said Hawken. "As much as we like to think we know everything, we don't."

The owner of a Williston early education facility told the committee he supports the idea of changing those student-teacher ratios. T. J. Corcoran runs the Corcoran School. He says parents can’t afford higher day care fees, and many of the day care operators can’t make it – because they have to pay higher salaries to attract good people.

"Child care center would now be able to cash flow, while setting tuition rates that are affordable to families,"  Corcoran told the committee. "The economics of child care in North Dakota will finally make sense to operators, who can now increase their footprint across the state."

Linda Reinicke of Lutheran Social Services says she worries that more kids per teacher will mean reduced quality.

"We can't look at children as widgets," said Reinicke. "We need to look at them as developmentally needing nurturing and early learning. You can only do that in small groups."

The committee is studying the measure. It's HB 1422.

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