Malloy Administration planning rating system for daycare

Mary Trigila says her Windsor Locks preschool is one of the best in the Hartford area. But because the state does not grade her program, parents have to take her word for it.

That may soon change, as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration is planning to begin a rating system to measure the quality of daycare facilities throughout the state.

“This will encourage them to raise the level of education they are providing,” said Liz Donohue, Malloy’s director of policy. “This idea causes a lot of people a great amount of anxiety, but it’s meant to identify areas for improvement. We want to use it to help lift everyone up.”

Previous attempts to initiate a rating system stalled over the cost of administering the system and providing money to help centers improve their programs. The most recent attempt was in 2008.

“It’s a great idea but the state hasn’t had the money,” said Kathy Queen, the executive director of Wallingford Community Daycare and co-chair of the directors’ panel of state-funded daycare facilities. “If you don’t have the incentives then you are going to be rating programs without helping them improve.”

This time around, the state is hoping to use $50 million in federal Race to the Top money to pay for the rating system and a program to assess the school readiness of children in early education programs. If the state gets the federal grant, target date for starting the rating system will be before June 2013.

“To have a system that tells parents what kind of education they are going to get sounds like an awfully good idea,” said State Board of Education Chairman Allan B. Taylor.

Twenty-one states have established quality rating systems for their early education program.

Donohue said the state’s application, which is due mid-October, will likely be similar to the plan considered in 2008. That plan proposed raising reimbursement for state-funded daycare at the more highly-ranked facilities. The other programs would be offered financial incentives to raise their education standards and increase family involvement. The program also would encourage a more highly-trained daycare workforce through scholarships and wage supplements.

“If we are going to rate them we have to provide them with the resources so they could provide better care,” Donohue said.

It has not yet been decided if all 4,231 licensed daycare centers and providers, which have the capacity to have 115,587 children in their programs, will be rated or whether participation will be voluntary.

Trigila said she can’t wait for her daycare to receive a grade.

“Bring on the grades, we will pass with no problem,” she said. “If they are trying wean out the bad programs then this will put a spotlight on them. I think there should be the check in place.”