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Eye On Boise

Day-care fight still on, a quarter-century later

I took a little journey back through my newspaper’s clips to 1983, when the following stories, all with Coeur d’Alene datelines, appeared in the paper: “Former day care operator admits sex-abuse guilt” “Coeur d’Alene’s council studies day care rules” “Child-care ordinance passed by council” and “Licensing approved to protect children at day-care centers.”

At the time, the story of the “Busy Bee Mini-School” was huge news. It turned out that the operator of the center was molesting the little girls there. The case prompted the city of Coeur d’Alene to decide not to wait for effective state laws regulating child-care centers; they passed their own licensing law. Over the years, six other Idaho cities –
Boise, Chubbuck, Jerome, Lewiston, Moscow and Pocatello – followed suit.

But now there’s a related problem. When a day-care operator fails the city’s licensing standards, including failing to pass a criminal background check, it’s become common for that operator to just move outside the city limits to set up shop. And there’s nothing anyone can do about it, under current laws.

Doug Fagerness, director of North Idaho College Head Start, has seen it happen as a member of the Coeur d’Alene city child care commission. “This is not an issue of local control,” he said. “This is a responsibility we share as a civilized state.”

Idaho does have laws now requiring licensing for centers that care for 13 or more children, and it certifies those caring for seven or more. But there’s no regulation of those caring for six or fewer kids. That’s the fight that Rep. George Sayler, D-Coeur d’Alene, along with a large, bipartisan group of legislative cosponsors and business and child-advocacy organizations from around the state, have been waging for the past three years – they want state licensing for the smaller centers too, at least to require criminal background checks and set minimal staffing, health and safety requirements. Sayler’s been shut down in a House committee each year for the last three years, as some members said they oppose day care and believe mothers should stay home with their children.

Now, even Gov. Butch Otter – no fan of licensing or regulation – says minimum staffing and safety rules and criminal background checks make sense. Read my full story here from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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