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New laws aim to improve early education in the First State

Delaware Public Media

Gov. John Carney signs legislation that will develop early education programs for children before kindergarten and increase developmental screening for those same children.

Senate Bill 169 and House Bill 202 were both signed by Carney this week.

SB 169 updates and expands the definition of child care to include early education programs for children below the grade of kindergarten that are operated by public or private schools.

State Sen. Kyle Evans Gay (D-Talleyville) sponsored the legislation, and she says it will make minimal requirements the same for everyone.

"It makes equal our licensing requirements across the board so that families in Delaware when they're putting their children into an early education center know that the minimal health and safety requirements are going to be the same," said Gay. "That's the same for private schools, independent schools, parochial schools, public schools, and our private providers."

Evans Gay adds the bill has another important item.

"To ensure that the people who we're asking to follow through with those regulations we're going to streamline their processes so that for some providers having six different rules, set of rules to follow is just too much," said Gay. "A lot of times these are small businesses, these are individuals who are providing a crucial public service."

HB 202 increases the opportunity for Delaware children to undergo developmental screening at an early age to identify children who may be eligible for early intervention or special education services.

It also requires any applicant for a license or renewal to operate a child care facility on or after July 1, 2023 to commit that each child five and under not in kindergarten will undergo developmental and social emotional screening.