by Brandon Todd
On Thursday, October 31st, the Council’s Committee on Education held a public hearing on the Parent-led Play Cooperative Amendment Act of 2018. This legislation, temporarily enacted in emergency form last month, would fully exempt parent-led play co-ops from the regulatory requirements imposed on formal child care facilities.
With the Council’s hearing room packed by dozens of parents and their young children, I voiced my full and enthusiastic support for the legislation. We cannot allow this critical service for families to be regulated out of existence.
Parent-led play cooperatives are defined by the legislation as a “group of parents, step-parents, or legal guardians of participating children, including a group organized through a nonprofit organization, who have agreed to supervise the participating children during group meetings.”
Cooperative play groups are a platform that allow parents to rotate supervision duties while their children enjoy regularly-scheduled time playing and socializing with their peers. Co-ops are not daycares. They are small, informal community gatherings of parents with similar-aged children. They allow parents the time to attend to other duties, while also strengthening the bonds of community among families and neighbors.
The Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE) has taken the position that these groups constitute formal “child development facilities,” and therefore must be subject to the rules that regulate these business establishments. I strongly disagree with this assessment. While I understand OSSEs impulse to protect the safety of our children, as I have heard from countless Ward 4 parents – mothers and fathers would not allow their children to participate in these co-ops if they did not have full confidence in the safe care and supervision they receive.
The Petworth play group was recently approached by OSSE and asked to comply with the arduous standards for a formal daycare – namely, obtaining a license. Knowing that this would effectively shut down the co-op, the Petworth play group was forced to relocate to a federal building outside OSSEs jurisdiction.
Our families should not have to jump through hoops to access the informal, voluntary, and flexible child care that these play co-ops provide. In addition to convenience and camaraderie, this complimentary service also saves parents money as the cost of child care in the District continues to soar.
I am committed to advocating for this legislation to #SaveParentPlayGroups. If you agree that the District must #LetKidsPlay, I encourage you to share your thoughts with the Committee on Education, Chaired by Councilmember David Grosso, by calling (202) 724-8061, or submitting written testimony to Ashley Strange, Committee Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to supporting this legislation and standing with our parents and their play co-ops.
11/5 - Editor’s Note: There’s a petition for Councilmember Gross to get him to move the Parent-led Play Cooperative Amendment Act of 2018 out of committee and to the Council for a vote.