By Hunter Woodall
December 20, 2016

New regulations that would require additional training for child care and preschool workers in Kansas were criticized Tuesday by some providers who said they ultimately could force them to charge parents more.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the proposed changes would be made to follow new federal requirements, according to state documents.

The new state regulations — and the added time and cost of the additional education — drew the ire of some of the roughly 100 people who attended a hearing in Topeka.

Under one of the new rules, primary care providers in day care homes and group day care homes would now need to complete 16 hours of professional development training.

Program directors for preschools and child care centers would need to complete 24 hours of annual training. Certain staff members would need to complete 16 hours of training, under the proposed regulation. The changes also included revisions to health and safety training for the workers.

Russ Robinson, owner of the Kids R Kids early learning center in Olathe, said the required training was already enough. The new changes weren’t needed, he said, and put an unreasonable economic weight on Kansas parents.

“The proposed amendments are expensive,” he said. “They’re going to cost our parents.”

But while the majority of the people who spoke at the hearing said they were against further regulation of this nature, some people spoke in favor of the move.

Amy Gottschamer, who works as the director of Googols of Learning in Lawrence, said cost shouldn’t be seen as an issue.

“If we want to be considered more than just glorified babysitters, we must engage in education,” she said.

And Amanda Gress, director of government relations for Kansas Action for Children, said her organization supported the changes.

“Initial and ongoing training for child care providers improves Kansas children’s safety and early learning,” she said.

Patty Bullock, director of the Prince of Peace preschool in Topeka, grew emotional as she spoke. Training has to have substance, she said, and it has to help the families. Increasiing the hours alone won’t do the job, she said.

“I have seven of the most highly professional teachers (and) pay them well,” Bullock said. “But now I’m going to ask them to do more. And the way that’s going to get accomplished is, I’m going to have to go to the parents and ask them to pay more to do that. And that’s wrong.”

Lori Steelman, director of the state’s early care and youth program, said the Department of Health and Environment would review the comments made Tuesday as it moves forward with the proposed changes.

Read more from the Kansas City Star.