At the November WAC negotiations, the seventh of nine, WFIS and fellow negotiation team members had productive conversations about several tough issues including expulsion, multi-age classrooms, and staff absence reporting.
The teams have not reached consensus on rules of the expulsion of children yet. However, the complexities of expulsion reached common understanding:
- Research suggests that children who are expelled from preschool are typically bounced around to different programs, are more often children of color, and struggle to get the traction needed to do well in school in the future.
- Private businesses owners need to be able to protect classrooms of children from violent behavior.
- Extra resources are needed to support a child struggling in preschool for the sake of the child and for the other families’ security.
- The extra cost and expertise is often prohibitive. Expulsion is less expensive and less disruptive to the group, but detrimental to the child.
The general tone from all negotiators is that the right thing to do is to support a child to be successful first and foremost. The sticky part is, at whose expense? If a program holds onto a child or family severely disrupting the wellbeing of the rest of the children or families, the consequences can be devastating for a program. On the other hand, expelling a child can have long-term repercussions for that child’s life.
Another issue raised: If DEL starts tracking each program’s expulsion rate, there may be less willingness to take a child who may be experiencing trauma or in need of extra support because of the program’s fear of being labeled as a place that expels children. The unintended consequence of programs rejecting or not enrolling children who MIGHT have difficulty being successful is less access for children-in-need in high quality care.
Montessori Schools have provided ample research on the benefits of multi-age classrooms over the past 100+ years. There are also many other programs whose pedagogy supports children in multi-age classrooms as well.
The conversation between the negotiators came to the common understanding:
- Multi-age classrooms work well for educating children academically and socially.
- Programs need to articulate their commitment to mixed age groups so parents understand how it works.
- It is not beneficial to just put one child of a different age into a classroom because of the budgetary needs of a program.
- The ratios need to correspond with the youngest child in the group.
- After and before school care needs to be flexible and include different age ranges for the sake of parent needs and reasonable staffing. This includes school age and preschool children.
- Centers and Family home providers are able to successfully support children of different ages in a classroom.
- Activities should be differentiated and developmentally appropriate.
There was much discussion on the need of Licensees to report to DEL when and explain why a Director and Program Supervisor will be gone longer than 10 days. It was agreed that a plan must be in place for who is in charge, how the children’s needs will be met and parents will be notified of the plan. In this section, consistency between types of programs was granted and language and process simplified.
Professional Development and Education Requirements
There is still much to discuss about prerequisites and ongoing training required by DEL. The debate is multifaceted: one extreme is the desire to “professionalize” the profession by requiring extensive and specific course work on teaching young children. The other side of the reality is that there are already excellent teachers without credentials who within the proposed framework, will be out of a job.
Here is some of what is being discussed:
- There is currently a considerable and impactful teacher shortage.
- Mandated ECE certification does not help motivate people to work in the field.
- ECE credentials from Washington are only good in Washington. Why would someone pay for such a limited career benefit?
- Ignoring “out of field “ undergraduate and graduate degrees decreases the number of people eligible to teach.
- Great people already in the field need equivalency credit for time spent teaching.
- Clear equivalencies for work, education, teacher training within a different system (Montessori, Waldorf, etc.) need to be outlined by DEL.
- “Stars training” needs to equate to “degree earning.”
- There needs to be incentives given for people to join the field. (Higher wages, living expense discounts, education that leads to a degree, tax breaks…)
Professional Development will be negotiated at the next session in December. Please send your thoughts to Shanson@wfis.org