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child care regulations
Snowman art adorns the wall of a public preschool in Idaho City, Idaho. Credit: Lillian Mongeau/The Hechinger Report

Ivanka Trump has waded into the child care debate again with vocal support for a proposed one-time influx of $1 billion to the federal Child Care Development Fund, which provides states with money for subsidizing care. The money, which is listed in addition to the $5.3 billion for child care also included in the White House’s proposed budget, would be available to states willing to compete for it in part by eliminating requirements or regulations that can make it harder to run child care businesses or that drive up the cost for parents.

The likelihood that the president’s proposed budget passes the House is essentially zero. Still, the idea that child care’s woes — low pay, lack of facilities, decreasing availability of infant and toddler spots, rising costs for parents — could be addressed by weakening state regulations still managed to create a bit of an uproar in early education circles.

“Asking states to dilute [regulatory] protections as a requirement of a competitive grant program jeopardizes the safety and well-being of children,” wrote Catherine White, the director of child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center. “It creates a race to the bottom by incentivizing states to permanently remove the greatest number of basic protections for children in exchange for temporary new funding.”

In fact, even accounting for tightened regulatory oversights added by the bipartisan Child Care Development Block Grant renewal in 2014, child care regulations nationally tend to be laxer than experts recommend.

“Asking states to dilute [regulatory] protections as a requirement of a competitive grant program jeopardizes the safety and well-being of children.”

In 2017, The Hechinger Report and Columbia University’s Teacher Project conducted a 50-state scan of child care regulations. We also pulled from research conducted by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. We were specifically looking at regulations that affected 2-year-olds but our findings shed light on state regulations as a whole. Here are some of the key takeaways from that work:

  • While most states have basic safety regulations in place, there are few regulations governing what constitutes educationally enriching and developmentally appropriate care. The Hechinger Report–Teacher Project review found just six states that require caretakers to follow clear guidelines on developmentally appropriate learning strategies for children from birth to age 3.
  • In most states, anyone with a high school diploma is eligible to work as a child care provider. Twenty-three states have absolutely no minimum education requirements for home-based child care providers.
  • In 23 states, including Louisiana, Maryland, New Mexico, Florida, Kansas, New Jersey, and Washington, the maximum required teacher-to-student ratio for toddlers is 1:10 or higher.

Read our full story on state child care regulations.

This story about child care regulations was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

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