How Preschool Works in Arizona

Takeaway: Arizona provides licenses to center-based and home-based preschools that meet its regulatory standards. These standards tend to be stricter for center-based programs than for home-based programs. State-mandated caregiver-to-child ratios tend to be higher in Arizona than in other states. Arizona also allows unlicensed, unregulated programs, provided those meet a specific set of criteria. Following funding cuts, public pre-K is in a state of crisis; the few state programs that do exist are privately funded.

Overview

Arizona regulates center-based and home-based preschools. The state maintains a simple database search that can be filtered by zip code or provider type (center- vs. home-based). Results display contact information, inspection histories, and detailed compliance histories. For facilities that do noy comply with regulations, Arizona has a progressive enforcement process. Beyond the state’s regulated preschools, there are also unregulated facilities, which the state places limitations upon but does not oversee.

Pre-K in Arizona is considered to be in a state of crisis. Due to cost-cutting measures in 2011, Arizona was the first state to eliminate a state-funded pre-K program. At present, Arizona is among the few states that do not provide state funding for pre-K programs. Instead, state pre-K programs are now funded privately or through district budgets. Just seven percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in state pre-K programs — a proportion that is well below the national average of 29 percent.

Center-Based Care

Center-based programs take place in dedicated commercial buildings. Child care centers generally have relatively large group sizes, but total capacity is determined by available space and child age. Required staff-to-student ratios vary by child age. They are 1:5 or 2:11 for infants, 1:6 or 2:13 for 1-year-olds, 1:8 for 2-year-olds, 1:13 for 3-year-olds, and 1:15 for 4-year-olds. In centers with mixed-age groups, the ratios apply to the youngest child in the group. Infants are not permitted to be mixed with older children unless the center has fewer than six children total. Child care centers are required to post their capacities on their licenses. In addition, licenses, along with daily schedules, are required to be posted and displayed clearly.

Center directors must have a combination of at least two years of child care experience and college credits in child care, or at least 60 hours of instruction. All staff members are required to complete 18 hours of professional training each year. Staff are assigned to individual children and are required to provide constant supervision. At least one staff member with CPR and first-aid certification must be present at all times. There are also strict regulations for child nutrition and play programs.

Home-Based Care

Home-based care facilities, as their name suggests, offer a homey environment for preschoolers. These programs are required to be licensed but face less strict regulations than child care centers. Child care group home programs must maintain a ratio of 1:5 for all ages. If the caregiver has children, these children are included in the required ratio. A maximum of ten children are allowed in home-based settings.

Caregivers are required to have at least a high school degree and either credits in childhood education or instructional training in child development. All staff are required to complete 12 hours of annual training. At least one caregiver who is CPR- and first-aid certified is required to present at all times.

Unlicensed Care

Unlicensed programs, which are permitted to operate unregulated and unmonitored, are generally informal care programs or programs that meet infrequently. Legal unlicensed programs include programs with four or fewer children in a home, care provided by relatives, care in which parents are present, and subject-specific training programs.

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