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Senate committee approves bill exempting some child care facilities from licensure

Lawmakers moved a bill forward Wednesday that would exempt some non-public schools offering before and after school child care from obtaining licensure.

House Bill 712, which initially dealt with expert witness compensation, was stripped by Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) and replaced with language that primarily makes changes to the state’s disability voucher program.

But the bill also contained one small provision that would allow some non-public schools that offer childcare wraparound services a way out of licensure requirements that hold schools to higher health and safety standards.

“What is the public policy rationale…to not require child care facilities from being licensed?” asked Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake) of the bill’s sponsor.

Former N.C. Senator Richard Stevens, who represents the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools, explained to committee members that many non-public schools have long offered before and after school child care, but recent interpretations of the law have subjected them to onerous licensure requirements that this bill seeks to remove.

“This bill allows the non-public schools to do what they’ve always been doing, which is to have [the children] there all day – it’s a family friendly bill,” said Stevens.

Rob Thompson, director of children’s advocacy group NC Child, says moving away from licensure requirements for any facility that offers child care is a bad idea.

“Just because a child care center is co-located with a non-public school doesn’t mean that those health and safety standards aren’t still relevant,” Thompson told N.C. Policy Watch.

The bill also clarifies what kinds of expenses associated with special education are reimbursable to those who take advantage of a disability voucher.

Last year, lawmakers changed a law that awarded tax credits to parents of students with special needs who enrolled in non-public schools so that they would receive a voucher instead, reimbursing them up with to $3,000 a semester for special education expenses.

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