It wasn’t on last week’s agenda, but members of the Spokane Valley City Council said they planned to do their best to provide some assistance to local in-home daycare providers.
Unfortunately, however, that help may only come in the form of a letter to the Washington state Department of Early Learning, which is imposing some new, stricter rules that will go into effect on March 31.
At the March 13 council meeting, during the public comment section of the agenda, seven individuals representing local small daycares approached the podium and implored the council to do whatever they could to let the state agency know that the new regulations are, in many cases, overly burdensome and could drive some out of business.
“Is there any way you could help us work to postpone these things?” asked Patricia Leach, citing new education requirements for daycare providers, more rigorous background checks, costly upgrades to homes, and more supplies on hand, including food, medicine and clothing.
Other changes include making sure certain windows are outfitted with fire escapes. Nine inches of gravel or bark is also necessary around outdoor play equipment.
The city’s legal expert, however, reminded those in attendance there was little that could be done at the municipal level.
“(As a state mandate), this is not something that the city would get involved with at all,” said Cary Driskell, city attorney.
Michele Lowell, a local childcare provider, says some of the state’s new rules don’t coincide with the city’s own building code.
Spencer Lowell said he is unable to find work as a childcare worker because he has a concealed weapons permit.
“They are coming after gun owners,” he said.
The council agreed to send a letter to DEL to voice their concerns.
“In this economic crisis, so many parents are in need of daycare centers,” said Council Member Chuck Hafner.
“Thank you for your support,” said Shannon Benn, another daycare operator. “This does scare me.”
Mayor Tom Towey said Monday that the letter has been sent, with copies also forwarded to local legislators.
“It’s a difficult situation,” he said.