Capital Clicks

Iowa Senate makes another push for increased child care staffing ratios

By: - April 18, 2022 5:12 pm

The Iowa Senate passed another bill to increase child care staffing ratios and lower age requirements for staff. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Senate Republicans again passed a bill to increase child-to-staff ratios and to allow 16-year-olds to supervise children independently at Iowa child care centers.

The Iowa House passed House File 2198 in early March. That initial version of the bill allowed 16-year-old employees to independently supervise school-age children at child care centers. The Senate amended the bill Monday to also increase staffing ratios. Under the Senate’s version of the bill, one staff member at a child care center could care for up to seven 2-year-olds or 10 3-year-olds. 

That effectively makes House File 2198 match Senate File 2268, a bill that passed the Senate in February and did not pass the House

As she did in February, Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, proposed an amendment to require child care providers to notify parents if they will use the higher ratios or teenage staff members.  Senate Republicans voted down Jochum’s amendment and then passed the bill.

“It feels like Groundhog Day,” Jochum said. “We keep debating the same bills over and over again.”

Democrats argued the bill would make child care centers less safe for children and young employees. Sen. Jeff Edler, R-State Center, responded that the child-to-staff ratios would bring Iowa in line with other states.

“We need to modernize how we do day care, apparently, and at least give them the flexibility to take on the children they think they can effectively handle,” Edler said.

The House needs to pass the amended version of the proposal before it goes to Gov. Kim Reynolds to be signed into law. But the bill’s fate in the House is uncertain — staff for House and Senate Republicans said they were not aware of any agreement between the chambers on staffing ratios.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.