Officials of the state Department of Education proposed new rules Thursday for child care centers as part of Louisiana’s overhaul of its pre-K system.

The changes will give educators more time to focus on child development and learning, the agency said in a news release.

“The proposed regulations also ensure that our preschool children are cared for and taught by qualified, competent and trustworthy individuals while maintaining health and safety requirements,” state Superintendent of Education John White said in the announcement.

The suggested rules will be reviewed by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education during its next meeting on Dec. 2-3.

The changes stem from a 2012 state law aimed at improving a pre-K system that critics said was marred by uneven quality and varying standards.

The law also put early childhood oversight under BESE and the state Department of Education.

The proposed changes would:

  • require new employees and volunteers to undergo a more intensive, fingerprint-based criminal background check
  • mandate that staff members at child care and Head Start centers be trained in pediatric first aid and giving medication
  • require centers to post their licenses and daily schedules.

The proposed changes stem from a year of meetings between department and child care officials and others.

Alan Young, a member of the board of the Child Care Association of Louisiana, said the new rules will help ensure that youngsters enter kindergarten ready to learn.

One of the complaints about the current pre-K setup is that barely half of kindergarten students are academically prepared when they enter school.