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Big Brother: A new bully on the playground

Goldwater Institute Daily
June 23, 2011

 
A new bully on the playground

by Carrie Ann Sitren
There's a new feature at summer camp this year. But it's not a new swimming
hole or playground. It's Big Brother looking over the shoulders of daycare
centers.

 

Arizona's Division of Licensing Services (DLS)
has created a new program to control activities from TV time to the number
of times water is offered each day. While DLS doesn't have the authority to
freely reign over private daycare centers, it has found a way to use fees to
force private organizations to submit to its preferences.

Until 2010 daycare licensing fees cost $150 every three years regardless of
how many children were enrolled. Last year, rates rocketed to $7,800 for the
largest childcare centers. For many small centers, the new $1,000 fee proved
too much to sustain. This year, the government offered some relief.
Childcare centers can cut their fees in half if they agree to 10 new
standards, including serving meals "family style," meaning all kids eat from
the same bowls, serve themselves as much or little of each food as they
want, and are free to eat dessert without finishing their plates.

Arizona law does not permit an agency to use licensing fees for whatever
Simon Says. Licensing fees must be tied directly to the cost of the
regulation. In industries where health and safety concerns are obvious, like
caring for children, licensing is the most popular and traditional way to
regulate. In a perfect world, fees and regulation should go hand-in-hand, so
that the people who are regulated pay directly for their costs. The money
should pay for things like background checks, facility inspections, and
investigations.

But these new daycare center license fees are clearly not tied to the cost
of regulation. It costs no more to license a daycare center that serves 1%
low fat milk instead of 2% milk. The agency is using fees to coerce daycare
centers to follow standards that ultimately are not within the agency's
power to make. DLS should stop bullying daycare centers and stick to
traditional health and safety concerns.

Carrie Ann Sitren is an attorney with the Goldwater Institute's
Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

Learn More:

Arizona Department of Health Services: Division of Licensing Services
Empower Center Standards
Arizona Republic: 300 protest child-care fee hike

Carrie Ann Sitren
(602) 462-5000

csitren@goldwaterinstitute.org

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