Teachers or Babysitters?

The state is proposing its new requirements for child care centers, but some parents think the education standards could be higher.

Right now, the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services says child-care workers must have a high school diploma or GED, and eight hours of pre-service training.

Some parents say those guidelines are not strong enough and should have been changed in the latest proposal.

"Do we want babysitters, or do we want educators?," said Robin George, a mother of two kids under five. Both attend Stepping Stone Schools in Tyler. "I want to take them somewhere, where I know they're going to learn something."

Debbie Lauman, Director of Stepping Stone agrees."By not changing the requirements, I think we're sending a message that it's okay with us to be one of the lowest states in the nation when it comes to how we educate our children."

Shelly Judd, with the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, says parents surveyed on the issue were divided. Several focus groups felt the current standards were acceptable.

"The fear has been if the requirements are too strict, facilities can't maintain them and provide an affordable service for parents." Judd says a job applicant with at least a degree in early childhood development is the ideal candidate, but they're hard to find.

Jill Roberts, Director of The Growing Stick, says it's important to remember the state is only setting minimum requirements. Her school and many others are nationally accredited and have more certified teachers on staff, than not.

"Parents need to be looking for centers that are exceeding these standards, and not centers that are just doing those minimums," said Roberts.