New child care bill

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COLUMBIA - A new bill could put guidelines in place to assess the quality of early child care service.

Missouri is one of the few states that doesn't have these kinds of guidelines.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Donna Pfautsch (R-Harrisonville), is a way to extend the pilot program created by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in 2016.  This program is in danger of ending due to lack of funding.

If passed, the pilot program will be extended three years.  The voluntary quality assurance report of early child care services will focus on information regarding staff qualifications, instructional quality, professional development, health and safety standards, parent engagement, and community engagement.

Early child care is defined in the bill as children ranging from zero to kindergarten age.

The owner of Tiger Tots in Columbia believes this report will only work if it focuses more on the ends than the means. 

"Any real program that needs to be in place in order to determine the quality of a program, really needs to focus on the outcomes. Those need to be measured much more so than the process of how they get there," Paul Prevo said.

The reports will not be used as a way to enforce laws or for punitive purposes.

Prevo believes the assessment could be beneficial for the state if it is conducted correctly.

"I think it needs to go beyond just, hey, we met all the needs on paper, we checked all the boxes but we've got to look at the outcomes and see how these students are doing.  Not just in kindergarten but when they get to first, second, third grade. Do they still love learning," Prevo said.

The next hearing for the bill has not been scheduled. If it passes, the bill is scheduled to go into effect in August.