Without a lot of fanfare last week, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took a small step toward providing low-income families better access to child care when he transferred authority for a child care subsidy program from the Department of Human Resources to the Maryland State Department of Education. As a matter of policy and practice, it's a good move.
Last year, the General Assembly passed a bill, signed by Mr. Ehrlich, that took a number of child care functions out of DHR and gave them to MSDE, including licensing and monitoring child care facilities, providing incentives to improve quality of care, and maintaining and improving credentials of staff workers. The consolidation was seen as a natural extension of MSDE's authority over several early childhood education initiatives, such as prekindergarten programs, including the state's contribution to Head Start. One program that was left with DHR, called purchase of care, uses a combination of federal and state funds to give child care subsidies to families who are on welfare or whose income is low enough to qualify them for financial help.