“Tell me about rules that defy common sense—rules that hinder job creation—slow progress… I can promise, North Carolina will listen to you.” – Governor Bev Perdue
While Gov. Bev Perdue announced recently that there would be no new rules allowed to encumber businesses, a universally applauded measure to help expedite the economic recovery effort, the wheels were already in motion for a new and particularly onerous regulation on childcare providers, known as Early Educator Certification (EEC). This new regulation will likely have a negative impact on the cost and availability of childcare in North Carolina.
Certification is performed by the North Carolina Institute for Child Development Professionals, also referred to as “the institute,” a non-profit with ties to Child Care Services Association (CCSA), another non-profit that runs government-funded childcare programs across the state. The institute promotes a scholarship program called TEACH, run by CCSA, that could offset some of the costs of certification requirements.
What started as a voluntary certification program for teachers and other childcare workers turned into a state mandate last year, as the EEC requirement subtly slipped through the General Assembly during the last legislative session. On August 2, 2010, EEC became a state requirement for all teachers and other staff working in early childcare. Now the over 12,000 childcare workers across the state will have to be certified, adding another mandate to an already heavily regulated industry. Many in the childcare community question why their input was not solicited before instituting this extra regulation.
“Child care providers were not given an opportunity to provide input into certification prior to it being incorporated into law. Any input provided was related to certification when it was still a voluntary process,” commented Linda Piper, Executive Director of the North Carolina Licensed Child Care Association (NCLCCA).
Childcare is already one of the most regulated industries in the state, being monitored by a large variety of government agencies including the Division of Child Development, Sanitation, and Fire Inspector, among others. Childcare agencies are currently assessed according to a “star rating system,” which awards stars to childcare centers according to meeting or exceeding standards set by the government.
The Early Educator Certification (EEC) adds an additional layer of bureaucracy to an already complicated system of rules and requirements. Instead of just licensing the childcare center, now individuals in the childcare industry will also have to be certified. The EEC is a requirement for childcare teaching staff, home childcare providers, and even childcare administrators.
There are costs associated with the certification process. Individuals applying for certification will now have to pay $50-$65, and $25-$35 to renew their application every three to five years. However, the more strenuous aspect of certification comes in the in-service training requirements that childcare providers will be subjected to.
Current education requirements stipulate that a teacher with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood receives 25 clock hours of training over the course of five years. Now, that requirement will be more than doubled – mandating a teacher receive 60 clock hours in that same time span.
The teaching sessions are qualified as a Continuing Education Unit (CEU), and a single CEU can be as expensive as $79, others CEU courses can cost around $66. According the institute, five clock hours is equal to .5 CEUs, which could put the overall cost for in-service training over $400.
While certification is said to be the responsibility of the individual teacher, the burden ultimately falls on childcare providers. If a teacher does not meet the increased education requirements for whatever reason, that teacher would not be able to renew their certification and would have to be fired. All new childcare employees must submit an application for EEC within 60 days of being hired. To maintain staff, childcare providers will be the ones policing their employees to ensure they are certified.
As Gov. Perdue has been assessing rules and regulations that burden hard-working industries in the state, she should consider this brand new and already unpopular regulation that is of great concern to many involved in childcare. EEC is an extra and unnecessary layer of bureaucracy that drives up the operating costs of childcare for providers and was instituted without the proper input from childcare workers who will now be subjected to it.