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Several York County School of Technology students are challenging a state requirement that bars younger early childhood students from on-the-job training at the school.

Summer Schanberger and two of her classmates, Cassandra Shermeyer and Samantha Flickinger, recently competed at a Family, Career and Community Leaders of America  competition in the advocacy category. Their project focused on a part of the Pennsylvania code that prohibits students younger than 16 from working at child-care facilities in the state, even for training.

The rule: According to Schanberger, the restriction makes it difficult for students to attain the 480 hands-on hours required to earn a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential. According to the early learning organization PA Keys’ website, the CDA credential is “the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education.”

“We want that law changed,” Schanberger said.

Schanberger said she and her classmates introduced their findings to a panel of judges and won gold at the FCCLA's Students Taking Action with Recognition statewide competition.

Mindy Miller and Heather Ryan, instructors of early childhood education at  York County School of Technology, say they suggested the idea to the seniors for their advocacy project after years of trying to get students involved in the issue.

Miller said many regulations are already in place to protect children, since child care is taught at the school.

“We’re a PDE (Pennsylvania Department of Education)-approved program,” Miller said. “They’re always under the supervision of a classroom teacher.”

Schanberger agreed.

“If they’re enrolled in a certified technical program, they’re getting all the training before they even turn 16,” the 18-year-old said of her younger classmates. She added that several students will be unable to attain the hours for the CDA certification before graduating from the school.

In-school benefits: There are several benefits for students to spend their training hours while in school, according to Schanberger.

One is the safe setting of having the facility within the confines of the school’s campus. Another is the ability to train in school itself. Some students, including one participant in Schanberger's group, have trouble attaining their hours off campus since they do not have a means of transportation.

One especially compelling reason Schanberger mentioned for in-school training is the subsidized cost of getting the CDA certification.

She said the cost to get certified is more than $400, but with a special scholarship from the school, the price paid by the student is a fraction of the total cost.

“They pay for all but $20,” she said.

Miller said the idea was suggested to students in the past and once before led to a bill in the state House to amend the Human Services Code. But that bill got stuck in committee.

Miller said Schanberger and her classmates have “gotten the furthest” because of their outreach effort to those in power.

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York Tech seniors Summer Schanberger and Samantha Flickinger leads York Tech/LIU preschoolers in a circle activity Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at York County School of Technology.

HB 1065: The three students are now pressing state officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf, to  change the rule. State Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, and his office have been in contact with the students, and he recently proposed a bill to rectify the issue. So far, 14 state legislators have joined Grove in sponsoring the bill.

The proposed bill, House Bill 1065, would amend part of Pennsylvania's Human Services Code, adding a new class of volunteers at child-care facilities, referred in the bill as a "child development student." As long as students are enrolled in an early childhood education program and under adult supervision, students as young as 13 would be allowed to volunteer at a child-care facility.

"By passing this legislation, we can not only (help) students at a CTE (Career and Technical Education) institution gain experience as they pursue a career in child care or early education," Grove said in the bill's memorandum, "we can provide this experience in a manner that keeps children safe."

For their final work on the project, Schanberger, Shermeyer and Flickinger are moving on to the FCCLA national competition in Nashville to be held in July. York County School of Technology had planned a  bingo fundraiser Sunday at the school to fund the travel and lodging expenses for the trip and future competitions.

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