A child-care bill sponsored by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., received unanimous support from the board of directors of one of Utah's low-income advocacy groups, while a child-care bill sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was criticized for not setting minimum standards for child care.
Dodd's bill, S1885, the Act for Better Child Care (called the ABC Bill), calls for $2.5 billion, of which Utah would receive about $23 million. The Child Care Services Improvement Act, S1678, commonly called the Hatch Bill, has proposed funding of $375 million plus tax incentives, and Utah's share would be about $4 million.Carol Blackwell, a volunteer researching the child-care issue, told members of Utah Issues' board of directors that "Utahns made a massive citizen outcry to prevent delicensing of day-care facilities" a couple of years ago at the Legislature. "Now Senator Hatch wants to undermine those very standards."
The legislation may be voted on by the House as early as June, and by the Senate by September.
The ABC Bill, Blackwell said, would offer greater benefits to low-income families or those who earn up to 15 percent above the state median level, with a limit set. Funding would also be required to allow extended child-care hours. The Hatch Bill doesn't define low-income families. It allows money for after-school programs and care of sick children, as well as start-up costs for employer-sponsored child care.
Another plus to the ABC, she said, is establishment of low-interest loans, grants available to non-profit centers and providers to meet standards, and a priority granted to those serving low-income families. The Hatch Bill allows low-interest loans of up to $1,500 for capital improvement in family-based facilities to meet licensing requirements.
"The Hatch Bill does some nice things," she said, "but it doesn't go far enough." The ABC allows more money for scholarships and provides funding to pay child-care providers a "more realistic" wage. Utah data indicate that in 1981, the average amount paid to day-care directors was $4.14 an hour, while teacher aides in day care made $3.15 an hour - below minimum wage. The average wage 7 years later is still below minimum.
The ABC Bill would also require that child-care providers complete 15 hours of training a year, while the Hatch Bill has no training requirement. ABC would require parental access to child-care facilities, she said, and establishes a parental complaint system. On the other hand, the Hatch Bill leaves parental involvement up to the state. Mary L. Olsen, program specialist in the Division of Family Services, said that 29 states don't allow parents to drop in, and only eight states require any training in child care.
Board members hope that, at the least, Sen. Hatch will "compromise up."