(NASHVILLE, TN) – The State Senate approved legislation on Thursday sponsored by Senator Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville) allowing church-related “Parents’ Day Out” programs for pre-kindergarten children to operate more than two days a week. Senate Bill 178 allows Parents’ Day Out programs to continue with an exemption from being licensed as a child care facility as long as a child attends no more than two days a week for six hours each day.
The legislation comes after State Attorney General Robert E. Cooper released an opinion last year saying Tennessee law restricts program operations to no more than two days per week. The ruling applies even if no individual child enrolled attends for more than two days in the same calendar week.
“Parents’ Day Out programs at churches provide a very valuable service to parents throughout Tennessee,” said Senator Massey. “These programs would have been severely restricted if legislation was not passed.”
The bill also allows for churches to have programs on each of their campuses and calls for them to register with the Department of Human Services in case vital health information needs to be disseminated. Massey said the registration is free and only for the purpose of providing important health information in emergencies like a flu epidemic, meningitis or other communicable diseases.
“It is a safety measure to better serve these children and keep them safe,” she added.
The legislation was crafted utilizing information received by churches who replied to a statewide survey conducted by the Department of Human Services. Approximately 160 churches replied to the survey.
“The survey responses of the Parents’ Day Out Programs assisted us in determining the possible options available to find a resolution,” Massey said. “This was a joint effort. I am very pleased it has been approved.”
The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for this signature.
Reference/ Attorney General Opinion: http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/op/2012/op12.48.pdf