January 26, 2021
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Senate Bill 0158

Senate Bill sb0158e1

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    CS for SB 158                                  First Engrossed



  1                      A bill to be entitled

  2         An act relating to religious-exempt child care

  3         programs; amending s. 402.316, F.S.; providing

  4         for a child care program affiliated with a

  5         religious congregation or parochial school to

  6         be exempt from regulation by the department as

  7         a religious-exempt child care program;

  8         requiring religious-exempt child care programs

  9         to display a certificate of compliance issued

10         by an accrediting agency recognized by the

11         department; providing requirements for

12         accrediting agencies recognized by the

13         department; requiring a recognized accrediting

14         agency to conduct an initial on-site review;

15         providing timeframes within which child care

16         programs must meet the requirements for

17         training and credentials; requiring recognized

18         accrediting agencies for religious exemption to

19         submit standards to the department; requiring

20         the department to create and maintain a list of

21         recognized accrediting agencies; providing that

22         the act does not authorize the department to

23         regulate certain specified elements of a

24         religious-exempt child care program; requiring

25         that the department notify recognized

26         accrediting agencies of any revision in

27         standards; requiring that a recognized

28         accrediting agency submit an annual report;

29         providing timeframes within which an exempt

30         child care program must notify an accrediting

31         agency of its transfer and termination of


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    CS for SB 158                                  First Engrossed



 1         accreditation; prohibiting a recognized

 2         accrediting agency for religious exemption from

 3         owning, operating, or administering certain

 4         programs; requiring the department to

 5         facilitate an annual meeting; providing an

 6         effective date.

 7  

 8  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

 9  

10         Section 1.  Section 402.316, Florida Statutes, is

11  amended to read:

12         (Substantial rewording of section. See

13         s. 402.316, F.S., for present text.)

14         402.316  Exemption for child care program or weekday

15  preschool program accredited by a recognized accrediting

16  agency for religious exemption.--

17         (1)  A child care program or weekday preschool program

18  qualifies for the exemption provided in this section if the

19  program is an integral part of an established religious

20  congregation or parochial school conducting regularly

21  scheduled classes, courses of study, or educational programs,

22  and is a member or participant of, or accredited by, a state,

23  regional, or national accrediting agency for religious

24  exemption which is recognized by the Department of Children

25  and Family Services. A child care program or weekday preschool

26  program that qualifies as a religious-exempt child care

27  program may choose to be exempt from the requirements for

28  child care licensing established in ss. 402.301-402.319 or may

29  voluntarily be licensed under ss. 402.301-402.319. If a

30  religious-exempt child care program chooses to be exempt from

31  the requirements of ss. 402.301-402.319, the program must meet


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    CS for SB 158                                  First Engrossed



 1  the screening requirements in ss. 402.305 and 402.3055 and

 2  must display its certificate of compliance issued by a

 3  recognized accrediting agency for religious exemption in a

 4  conspicuous location in the facility. Failure to post the

 5  certificate of compliance in a conspicuous location will

 6  result in an administrative action as determined by the

 7  standards of the program's accrediting agency for religious

 8  exemption.

 9         (2)  The department shall verify an accrediting agency

10  as a recognized accrediting agency for religious exemption if

11  the accrediting agency:

12         (a)  Adopts minimum standards for operating a child

13  care program or weekday preschool program which meet or exceed

14  the department's minimum standards set forth in s. 402.305

15  (1)-(11), (13), (15), and (16);

16         (b)  Publishes its minimum standards and requires a

17  child care program or weekday preschool program that is a

18  member or participant of, or accredited by, the agency to

19  comply with the accrediting agency's minimum standards;

20         (c)  Requires a program that is a member or participant

21  of, or accredited by, the agency to meet the minimum

22  requirements of the local governing body with respect to

23  health, sanitation, and safety, including minimum requirements

24  for environmental health, firesafety, zoning, and building

25  codes;

26         (d)  Requires a program that is a member or participant

27  of, or accredited by, the agency to inform parents that the

28  program is exempt from state licensing requirements but meets

29  the standards of the program's accrediting agency, which meet

30  or exceed the department's minimum standards;

31  


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    CS for SB 158                                  First Engrossed



 1         (e)  Conducts an initial on-site review of each program

 2  that is a member or participant of, or accredited by, the

 3  agency. Each year thereafter, a notarized statement must be

 4  submitted to the accrediting agency by each program verifying

 5  compliance with applicable state laws and the accrediting

 6  agency's published minimum standards; and

 7         (f)  Requires child care personnel employed by a

 8  program that is a member or participant of, or accredited by,

 9  the agency to comply with standards that meet or exceed the

10  standards set forth in s. 402.305(2)(d). A recognized

11  accrediting agency for religious exemption must require child

12  care personnel to begin a 40-clock-hour introductory course in

13  child care, approved by the department, by October 1, 2004, or

14  within 90 days after employment and complete the training

15  within 1 year after the date on which the training begins. In

16  addition, a recognized accrediting agency shall require a

17  program that is a member or participant of, or accredited by,

18  the agency to meet or exceed the requirements for staff

19  credentials set forth in s. 402.305(3) by July 1, 2008. The

20  department and accrediting agencies for religious exemption

21  shall work collaboratively to expedite the approval of

22  equivalency programs developed by the accrediting agencies.

23         (3)  Each accrediting agency for religious exemption

24  that seeks recognition by the department under this section

25  must submit a copy of its published standards to the

26  department for review. These standards shall be reviewed by

27  the department within 30 days after submission. The department

28  shall recognize an accrediting agency if the agency is in

29  compliance with subsection (2). The department shall create

30  and maintain a complete and accurate list of all recognized

31  


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    CS for SB 158                                  First Engrossed



 1  accrediting agencies for religious exemption and specify the

 2  agencies' standards.

 3         (4)  This section does not authorize the department to

 4  regulate or control an accrediting agency for religious

 5  exemption or to regulate or control the governance, religious

 6  curriculum, academic curriculum, testing or assessments,

 7  evaluation procedures, academic requirements of the staff,

 8  discipline, or hiring practices of any religious-exempt child

 9  care program.

10         (5)  The department shall distribute to each recognized

11  accrediting agency for religious exemption any revision made

12  to the department's minimum standards within 30 days after the

13  revision is adopted. Within 30 days after the receipt of

14  revised minimum standards from the department, each recognized

15  accrediting agency for religious exemption shall notify the

16  department by written statement documenting that they have

17  notified each exempt program of the revised standards. The new

18  standards shall be incorporated during the next revision of

19  the accrediting agency's minimum standards. Each recognized

20  accrediting agency for religious exemption shall maintain and

21  submit to the department an annual report that includes an

22  updated listing of programs that are members or participants

23  of, or accredited by, that agency and submit a written notice

24  of a new program coming into affiliation thereafter, or

25  terminating affiliation, within 30 days after such action. A

26  religious-exempt child care program that transfers its

27  affiliation from one accrediting agency to another must notify

28  the accrediting agency from which it is transferring 30 days

29  in advance of the transfer.

30         (6)  A recognized accrediting agency for religious

31  exemption may not own, operate, or administer a child care


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    CS for SB 158                                  First Engrossed



 1  program or weekday preschool program under its certificate of

 2  approval. A child care program or weekday preschool program

 3  exempt from ss. 402.301-402.319 under this section is solely

 4  responsible for its day-to-day operations and compliance with

 5  applicable state laws and the minimum standards of its

 6  accrediting agency for religious exemption.

 7         (7)  The department shall facilitate an annual meeting

 8  with the accrediting agencies for religious exemption, health

 9  and safety officials, and other interested child advocates to

10  exchange ideas for ensuring the health and safety of children

11  in child care and preschool programs.

12         Section 2.  This act shall take effect July 1, 2004.

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