Christian schools: Exempt us from certifications and licensure
Leaders of private christian schools clashed with legislators Wednesday in the Senate Education Committee over a bill that would require licenses and certifications for religious early education centers.
Senate Bill 69, sponsored by Sen. David Wilson, R-Lincoln, would exempt sectarian or religious institutions from the Delaware Child Care Act.
In 2021, the General Assembly enacted Senate Bill 169, to update and expand the definition of childcare to include early education programs for children below the grade of kindergarten that are operated by public or private schools, including sectarian or religious institutions.
This law takes effect on July 1, 2024.
Wilson, who voted for SB 169, said the law had unintended consequences.
It had unintentionally impacted private schools because now they would have to follow mandates and be licensed by the state, he said
“Please know these private schools do not accept state funds,” he said.
Aaron Coon, head of school at Dover’s Calvary Christian Academy, said if the legislators don’t pass SB 69, all 335 students at Calvary will be put at risk of not having a school.
“The facility requirements in the regulation are not possible in our facility, which means we would have to buy a new facility or used facility and make a large move,” he said. “That is not possible right now financially or within the timeframe allotted.”
He also said the regulations in the Delaware Child Care Act conflict with some of Calvary’s religious beliefs as a church and a school, especially in the hiring process. He did not expand on that comment.
“These points among others will force us to close our doors, contributing to Delaware’s child care and unemployment crisis,” he said.
Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, D-Arden, and Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, D-Newark, said the bill did not clearly define what a religious institution is.
“What would prohibit someone from saying ‘I’m a sectarian or religious organization?’” Sokola said. “I don’t know if we have a good definition in the code around that.”