Day Care Owners Petition Possible State Changes in Rules

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - More help in daycare centers. It sounds like a good thing but it could mean more money out of parents' pockets.

Proposed changes by the state are asking for a smaller child to caretaker ratio but some daycare owners are against it.

One owner went all the way to the state capitol to be the voice for West Texas.

They say change is a good thing, but ask day care owner Steve Sanders and he'll have to disagree on this one.

"They're saying they're not proposing anything yet," Sanders said. "As far as I'm concerned, I've been around 35 years and when they start looking at something, there's gonna be a change."

He's talking about possible changes in caregiver to child ratios across the board.

Right now, the ratio for three-year-olds is 15:1 teacher. But under the proposed changes, that number would be 7:1.

For kids age five, that cut is even bigger. The ratio goes from 22:1 down to just 8:1.

"After you get past the one-year-old group, it's almost half all the way through," Sanders said.

Sanders says this could double the cost of care for parents, so he and several other day care owners started a petition.

On Monday, with hundreds of signatures in tow, Sanders went to Austin to talk to the committee formed to address this topic.

"There wasn't even anybody on the committee that worked in child care," Sanders said. "I was shocked by that. I would say about 90% of the people there were against the change in ratios."

Sanders believes the state is trying to mandate quality in the classroom but he feels quantity isn't the only answer.

"Quality comes from longevity, education of my teachers," he said.

Sanders said this is the most recent change that has hurt them in the pocketbook.

New guidelines for staff training and crib safety were released this past year.

"I have 30 cribs I have to buy all new cribs by December of this year," Sanders said. "That's gonna cost me $6,000. They changed training hours so it still cost me money, it went from 15 to 24. Where do they think the money's gonna come from?"

And finding qualified employees is another struggle.

If the changes do happen, Sanders hopes the state will make changes over a 10 year period for an easier and more cost-effective transition.

"If you really, truly think quality is gonna be in the ratios you're proposing then gives us time," Sanders said. "Give us an age group per year."