OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Carri Hicks said a bill removing state oversight of family child care homes would leave Oklahoma infants and children at risk. Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, debated against legislation that would exempt any child care facility that provided care and supervision for 30 or fewer hours a week for no more than five children from the Oklahoma Child Care Facilities Licensing Act. The measure, Senate Bill 1239, was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday.
“Removing oversight leaves infants at risk due to a lack of sleep training. I’m particularly concerned about eliminating background checks which screen out convicted child-abusers,” Hicks said. “We have a critical shortage of child care in our state, but safety regulations are not the issue – it’s the high cost, and that’s something we need to address.”
According to the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness, 34 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties have been identified as child care deserts, and 55 percent of Oklahoma’s population lives in a child care desert. Hicks said the shortage of affordable, quality child care impacts the entire state. She pointed to data from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce showing that in 2021, child care negatively impacted more than one in 10 Oklahomans, causing them to change jobs, reduce hours, or leave the work force entirely, causing $1.2 billion in lost productivity.
“Access to affordable, quality child care is not just an issue for parents, because the numbers show this holds back our state’s economy,” Hicks said. “But the answer isn’t to remove safety regulations. The shortage in child care is because wages are stagnant and the cost to deliver quality care is more than many families can afford.”
She said there were several policy changes that would address the issue, including the restoration of the earned income tax credit; raising the minimum wage; moving to enrollment versus attendance for subsidies; and state aid and employer sponsored payments as a benefit for workers.
“Addressing child care shortages through better economic policy will increase the earning potential for single parents, families, and improve our entire state’s economy,” Hicks said. “Removing safety oversight simply puts vulnerable children in harm’s way.”
For more information, contact: Sen. Carri Hicks at 405-521-5543 or Carri.Hicks@oksenate.gov.