A state agency wants to know if it is allowed to increase training requirements for child care workers in Texas after a panel recommended such a change.
The Department of Family and Protective Services has asked the state attorney general if it has the authority to increase the current requirements of eight hours of initial training and 15 more hours annually, the Austin American-Statesman reported Monday.
A reply is expected by August.
A state panel that advises the department recommended last month that Texas increase initial training to between 16 and 40 hours and annual training to between 25 and 40 hours.
The Texas Association for Infant Mental Health says Texas lags behind most states on training requirements. Meanwhile, the state requires hairdressers to undergo 1,500 hours of training and pass a test.
"It's kind of scary to think that we require a lot less training to take care of our children than we do to cut hair," said Aletha Huston, a University of Texas at Austin child development professor who testified at a legislative hearing on child care last week.
As Texas considers revamping rules for day cares, the public focus has been on a proposal to reduce the number of children each adult may supervise. The chairman of a House panel examining day care says increasing training requirements could improve the quality of care in a way that's less expensive than hiring more employees.
Rep. Mark Strama of Austin said that if the attorney general decides that the department doesn't have the authority to increase training requirements, "I would suspect that the Legislature would be very receptive to a proposal."
Sen. Royce West of Dallas proposed an increase of training requirements last year, getting approval from the state Senate and a House committee before stall tactics in the House killed the measure.
Day care center owners object to an increase in training requirements, saying they might have to pass on the costs to parents who are already struggling to afford the care.
"We've just had so many things bombarded on us, but yet we can't raise our prices because parents can't pay it," said Candy Dill, owner of two facilities in the Houston suburb of Conroe.
Since some child care workers view the job as short-term, extra training doesn't make sense for them, said Max Taylor, president of the nonprofit Advance Child Care, which runs centers in Corsicana and Ennis.
"That's the rub with training," Taylor said. "I'm not saying they don't need training. But it's going to be hard for mom-and-pop operators to justify it with an employee who might be there one day, and three or four months later, they're gone."