A veteran colleague on the Health and Welfare Committee tells the story of setting regulations for Day Cares about 8-10 years ago. He refers to the process as the “Day Care Wars”. Strong feelings and passionate testimony surrounded the details of child/adult ratios and safety regulations. A person’s kids and livelihood can raise one’s passions.
Well, we got a small taste of it again this year. The subtitle to this piece could be “Unintended Consequences”, since I do not believe the problems we were dealt were intended. We somehow got Montessori schools over a barrel. The statue that was established during the “wars” was amended a couple years ago. The amending was not without conflict and took two years to get through. Montessori schools did not testify because they did not think the amendments would affect them. When the department reviewed a local Montessori school it was found that their practices were not in agreement with the new amended law.
New rules were proposed last year to conform to the amended law but they did not pass. So the department rewrote the rules this year to be verbatim like the law. This puts the Committee in a difficult position. We had a room full of people here to testify how wonderful Montessori schools are for their children. They did not want us to pass rules that would place their schools in violation. But here’s the kicker. Statutes always trump rules, and the statute and rules are identical. If we did not confirm the rules, the Montessori schools would still be in violation and the department would just have to write the rules again. The law needed to be changed. We could do nothing helpful for the Montessori schools by rejecting or confirming the rules. We could make the H&W Department rewrite the rules if we rejected them, but that seemed pretty silly.
So we approved the rules. Now Montessori schools will have to find some legislator with the guts to open up the difficult can of worms that is the source of the “Day Care Wars”.