The Senate budget proposal eliminates the Early Education Certification, a professional certification. We certify people who work on our teeth, hair, plumbing and trees and now thanks to S.L. 2010- 178 parents know who is caring for their children. This is not a duplicative process with what a state agency does. This function has been privatized and does not cost the state a dime. The NC Division of Child Development (DCD) must have this data and has already let go of positions that used to perform this function. Those positions are frozen.
DCD no longer accepts education documentation from the child care workforce for facility licensing purposes. This became effective earlier this year and now over 32,000 or 80% of the child care teaching workforce are in the certification system because of the incentives offered through previous state funding (ended December 2010). DCD receives this critical data electronically from the certifying body, the North Carolina Institute for Child Development Professionals, saving our state resources.
DCD will have the additional responsibility of integrating More at Four functions into their work letting the Certification law expire will create a burden and backlog in processing documentation with an already reduced staff. This will require additional state resources and feels like it is setting government up to fail.
1. This law does not cost the state a dime. Funding from state sources invested in researching, developing and implementing the system ended December 2010. Individuals pay for their own professional certification, as all other professions do. The cost is as low as $5/year. ($50 to be certified for 3 – 5 years and $25 to renew for same time period).
2. This is not unlike certifications for almost every other profession you can think of, but on a simpler scale. Child care teachers in our state are educated, they are professionals and should be recognized as such. Our hair, fingernails, teeth, pipes and even our trees are serviced by people with a professional certification!
3. Over 80% of the child care workforce is already in the system which was seeded by nearly a $1 million in state funds. There are 40,000 people in our state working in the child care industry and 32,000 of them are already in the certification system – parents believe this field is certified; now they are and need to be required to continue to be. Thousands of child care teachers have entered the system for free or at a reduced cost. They have purchased college transcripts, hung certificates on their walls, are sharing their accomplishments with parents, peers, family, they are getting discounts on purchases because they are certified and are reporting some are going back to school and many are participating in training and more — the system is fully developed and supporting the quality of early services that are helping to prepare children for school.
4. The entire community college system has ramped up and is offering CEUs for this population at a very low cost. Federal dollars supported developing 20 low cost CEUs for Early Educators which are available to all colleges to offer via their continuing education departments. Continuing education options are being offered and developed statewide for low cost to no cost from child care resource & referral agencies, Cooperative Extension, health and early intervention providers and more — on average the cost is less than $3 per hour. This is the same cost as training was before certification. The amount of continuing education required is builds on facility licensing requirements.
5. Not only does certification give the recognition these professionals deserve and must be required to have to serve 260,000+ children in our state, it creates efficiencies for our state. We should not be in the business of taking away an incentive to professionalize any field. Children need educated teachers to support young children being ready for school. The Division of Child Development is already receiving electronic transfers of data to support regulating 8,300 child care programs. We cannot ask DCD to do more, taking on More at Four, and now asking them to try to reassess 32,000 people?
6. Certification reduces the need for teachers and directors to submit education paperwork to multiple entities. Certification saves time and money. Early Educators become certified, the certification is portable and usable at any regulated program in the state. It provides point of hire documentation which any center director can use.
7. Discounts are in place for certified Early Educators. EEC Rewards provide reduced priced goods and services through a small but growing discount program offered by industry in our state. This bank of discounts is similar to what our public school teachers have access to.