11/24/2010

AFT Praises New Rules for Federal Child Care Grants

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Proposed rules for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) represent a "great step forward," the AFT told regulators on Nov. 23 in written comments that detail additional steps needed to ensure quality and transparency throughout CCDF, a federal program to expand early learning options for disadvantaged families.

The comments centered on draft rules that would dramatically change how lead agencies in the states and territories report their CCDF activities for the next two fiscal years. The revisions are vast, and will encourage agencies to share more data and monitor delivery in ways that go beyond a simple check-box review of activities funded through these block grants.

"This new level of transparency will ensure that families and children can access child care programs that offer high-quality, research-based services," AFT legislation director Tor Cowan stressed in the union's comments. The changes, he added, also send the message of partnership to all stakeholders—from families and the community to child care providers and lead agencies—when it comes to providing high-quality care and educational opportunities to children.

The union also pinpointed additional steps regulators can take to better serve families and children.

The AFT called for new language that would encourage lead agencies to work cooperatively with child care providers when paperwork errors crop up, easing the risk that these problems could disrupt services to children and families. Also needed, the AFT emphasized, was a broader definition of groups that lead agencies should cooperate with as they design and implement CCDF services—a definition that explicitly includes "parents" and "labor organizations." And the union asked regulators to bring clarity and common understanding to terms such as "higher quality" services, used by many lead agencies as the basis for offering higher rates to some providers.

The AFT also commended the draft's call for stepped-up monitoring of situations where child care providers go months without receiving payment from agencies for children in their care. "It is a travesty when already struggling providers have to try to make ends meet while waiting for their income," said Cowan, who encouraged regulators to broaden this monitoring requirement and "fix the system so that it doesn't happen anymore."

More news, information and policy statements are available online at the AFT Early Childhood Educators section of the AFT website. [Mike Rose, Jennifer Scully]

November 24, 2010