We are starting a negotiated rule making and public comment process today for DEL’s updated, aligned, and weighted set of rules for Family Home and Center child care facilities. Check out the website for lots and lots of detail on the process.
This process is the required next step to completing our Standards Alignment process. The Early Start Act of 2016 mandated that DEL “align” its licensing rules for family homes and child care centers. This is essentially a re-write of the entire licensing WAC, and we’ve taken the opportunity as part of this do something long requested by our providers – “weighting” the rules so everyone shares the same sense of the importance of one rule over another in ensuring safety. The end result should be a progression of standards and regulations between licensed child care, Early Achievers, and ECEAP. The early learning system will have a unified set of regulations that are easy to understand by providers in the field.
Many agencies would choose at this point to negotiate separately the set of aligned rules with each group of “affected parties,” and then hold a protracted public comment process. Instead, DEL has chosen to gather public comments and negotiate the rules with people and organizations affected by them, all at the same time.
I actually think this is a good idea – to get the interested parties all at one table together, trying to reach some sort of consensus. Adding parents and the public to the process will, I hope, vastly improve the quality of the outcome. The early learning field has made such great strides in the past few years in part because so many groups have often come together with one goal in mind: the health and well being of our state’s littlest learners. This process shouldn’t be any different.
People are obviously going to come at this from different perspectives and experiences. That’s a good thing. There may at times even be a little tension. That’s ok too. Push and pull is a healthy part of democracy. It ensures all groups and individuals are respected, considered, and protected. I’m confident about the great intentions of everyone who’s participating, whether it be in the formal negotiations, through alignment cafes, or by submitting comments as individuals. I’m also impressed by the work the DEL team has done thus far to get us all to this point. I look forward to the results.
Director, Washington State Department of Early Learning