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From indignant to indifferent, readers sound off on the
infrequency of state visits to preschools and child care
Our story about the infrequency of state inspections for preschools and child care programs stirred up a lot of talk among our users.
Parent Bethany Roberts-Garcia said she found it “very disturbing:”
My child used to attend a Montessori school that had 7 violations on it’s last visit. Most of the violations were small such as not having lids on the trash cans, however, when I found out that two toddlers had fallen out a window and the incident was not reported to the parents, I seriously began to reconsider sending my child to this school. I never would have found out about this incident if the school had not been visited by an inspector. As parents in an economy that requires two incomes to make ends meet we have little choice but to rely on others to take care of our children for at least part of the day and by extention we have to rely on the licensing groups to monitor those facilites to ensure the safety and health of our children. The state is falling far short of the trust we place in them with theses lax requirements.
But political science doctoral student and blogger Vlad Kogan questioned whether ramping up inspections would be worthwhile:
Inspections cost money. If you’re inspecting preschools, you have to give up doing something else. It’s not clear the risk trade off is worth it. Is there any evidence that quality/safety went down when inspections were rolled back from annual to once every five years? If not, what’s the big deal?
This is a good question and it’s one of the next things I plan to explore on preschool licensing: Can we track the effects of the cutbacks in inspections? Kogan suggested looking at death and injury reports. Dylan Mann agreed that preschools couldn’t hide “big events” like lost toddlers or injuries.
A few other commenters disagreed, and some argued that deaths and injuries wouldn’t tell the whole story. Former school board member Fran Zimmerman said you can call her “an unreconstructed nanny-state Liberal” if you want, but she finds the infrequency scary:
Vlad Kogan, this is not just about chronicling “death and injury” … It’s about regularly checking for a host of environmental standards that include items like attentiveness, personal warmth and friendly engagement of adults with their tiny charges, qualifying background checks of same adults, fresh air in the room, a visually rich and interesting environment, cleanliness.
Another commenter who used to work in day care, Greta Castaneda, weighed in to say that parents are the best inspectors. This same issue is raised by the state licensing division, which says the bigger oversight problems may actually be in other facilities, like homes for the elderly, that don’t have parents stopping in. Here’s what she said:
I’m sure there are a few exceptions to the rule, but for the most part these centers are run like a tight ship. I mean, you have parents coming in and out all day, most of them pretty nosy and very protective and picky about their child….so they really couldn’t get away with letting these centers be unsafe or dirty…they would loose business, if they did. It’s called competition and free enterprise — keep your customers happy and they will keep coming back.
Keep the comments coming! I’m not done writing about preschool and child care inspections and I’d love your thoughts and tips on what to explore and how it’s impacted you. If you don’t want to comment publicly on the blog, please feel free to send me an email.