published Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Georgia child care ratings go public on July 1

ATLANTA — Georgia will soon unveil its voluntary three-star child care rating system, which offers financial incentives for providers who participate.

About 1,233 of Georgia’s 6,000 licensed child care centers are participating, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

However, only about 200 will officially be rated with one, two or three stars when the system goes public July 1.

The other 1,000-plus will be working to demonstrate that they go above and beyond minimum health and safety requirements for licensed centers and are star-worthy, a time-consuming process that’s likely to take some of them to year’s end.

“We do think we have to start somewhere,” said Bobby Cagle, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, the agency that oversees child care centers. “What we are intending to say (in July) is this is what the system is all about. Ask your provider if they are participating.”

More center owners and family day care providers are expected to join the new system once the ratings go on display, Cagle said.

The stars will be on display at centers and on the state agency’s website. Also planned is an advertising campaign that encourages parents to put their children in star-rated child care centers.

The state is buying supplies for rated centers and giving some money for staff bonuses and lower staff-to-student ratios. As of July 1, star-rated centers also will receive an increase in the state/federal reimbursements they receive for caring for children from lower-income families, something that hasn’t happened in years, Cagle said.

The higher the center’s rating, the larger the reimbursement the center could receive for each qualifying child, he said.

“For the system to work the way we really want it to work, the whole program has to be tied to these reimbursements,” said Mindy Binderman, executive director of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students.

Star-rated centers will have the following attractions, state officials said:

—Each class has a daily lesson plan, ensuring greater focus on academics;

—Children have 30-plus minutes of daily physical activity;

—Information on staff-to-teacher ratios is readily available to parents;

—The staff is committed to serving more fresh fruits and vegetables.

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