One of the biggest obstacles to economic recovery post-pandemic has been the difficulty in finding childcare.
Writing in the Wichita Eagle, Kansas State Sen. Chase Blasi (R-Wichita) noted that, according to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit referral agency Child Care Aware of Kansas, the Sunflower State needs 85,000 additional childcare slots to meet the current demand.
“Unfortunately, over the past decade, Kansas regulators have placed some of the strictest regulations in the nation on our providers. Hundreds of providers have exited the market, eliminating thousands of spots for children.”
Rather than pass a measure that would have alleviated this issue, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly chose to veto it. Kelly also vetoed legislation last week that would protect women and children.
House Bill 2344 would have reduced licensing requirements and allowed for increases in staff-to-child ratios, and eliminated some fees and training requirements. The bill passed the Senate 21-17 and House 77-46. Its main provisions include:
- Adjust education requirements for program directors to allow a greater pool of candidates. Current regulations keep highly educated individuals out of the childcare workforce.
- Reduce child care licensing fees to $0, encouraging more providers to enter or stay in the market.
- Allow for flexibility by ensuring that the regulatory agency can offer waivers and pilot programs to respond to special situations and increase innovation.
“This bill would reverse the progress we’ve made (by) loosening safety requirements for childcare centers and preventing the state from being responsive to individual communities’ needs,” Kelly wrote in her veto statement. “While I agree it’s time to review our childcare policies, we must do it together – and in a way that improves, not harms, our state’s ability to help families and keep kids safe. Therefore, under Article 2, Section 14(a) of the Constitution, I hereby veto House Bill 2344.”
Kelly and other opponents suggested the bill would have put children in danger but neglected the fact that, as Blasi pointed out — with a dearth of licensed options — parents are turning to arrangements outside the regulated system.
“One of the biggest issues facing Kansas families is a lack of childcare options,” Republican State Rep. Dan Hawkins said. “Governor Kelly’s veto reinforces the failed status quo by choosing overregulation over workable solutions. During veto session, House Republicans will fight for Kansas families by voting to cut government red tape in order to help solve the childcare crisis.”
Elizabeth Patton, director of the Kansas Chapter of Americans for Prosperity, concurred.
“The Kansas legislature heard from providers and parents alike that cutting red tape would help solve the major issue of costly and hard-to-find child care,” Patton said. “HB 2344 was a smart bill that didn’t put any children at risk but instead could have helped families and, most especially, women. It’s a shame that Laura Kelly is putting politics above hurting families yet again.”