Capital Clicks

Senate approves higher child care staffing ratios

By: - February 21, 2022 5:12 pm

A teacher draws with students. (Photo by Cavan Images/Getty Images)

Child care centers could enroll more toddlers per worker under a bill passed Monday by the Iowa Senate.

Senate File 2268 would increase child care center staffing ratios, allowing providers to take on more children without hiring more employees. Under the proposal, one employee could watch up to seven 2-year-olds, or up to 10 3-year-olds.

It’s a slight change from the initial proposal, which would have allowed a ratio of one staff member to eight 2-year-olds. Under current law, child care centers must have one worker for every six 2-year-olds or eight 3-year-olds.

Sen. Jeff Edler, R-State Center, said the governor’s Child Care Task Force recommended the ratio change. He emphasized the bill would not require child care providers to take on additional children, but it allows them to do so if they choose.

“This adjustment to Iowa’s child care ratio could not come a moment too soon,” said Edler. “As the workforce shortages continue to challenge Iowans, we’re providing an outlet for their children so they can return to work.”

Senate Democrats objected to the bill, arguing it would overburden stressed and underpaid child care employees.

“We have a child care crisis. We have a workforce crisis,” said Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines. “And this is just going to make it worse.”

Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, proposed an amendment to require child care centers to notify parents if the center decides to increase the staffing ratio under the law. She argued some parents, especially parents of children with special needs, might seek a new child care provider if they find out that their child’s center will use the higher ratios.

“As a parent, I have a right to know that that ratio is increasing,” Jochum said.

The amendment failed, and the bill passed as proposed. A companion bill in the House, House File 2131, has passed through committee but House lawmakers have not yet considered it in floor debate.

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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.