Well around here a licensed preschool charges more. (really that's about it) They probably follow educational guidelines set by the state, follow a stricter schedule, may be on the food plan (serve meals) and receive government funding. An unlicensed preschool can be almost anything. It can be a mom running an inhome daycare and calling it preschool, It can be a church program, it can be a quasi-daycare. As with any program they are going to vary and you would be surprised at the huge differences between licensed A and licensed B as well as unlicensed A and unlicensed B.
I am not in Pennsylvania. A quick Google search turned up this information from <a href="http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/ServicesPrograms/ChildCareEarlyEd/" target="_blank">the state website about child care services</a>.<br><br>
I have only briefly skimmed through the information, so you should research thoroughly yourself, in case I've turned up an outdated site or incomplete information. I hope it's a start for you though:<br><br><br>
It appears that the Department of Public Welfare regulates 3 types of child care facilities (an excerpt from the page):<br><br><i>What types of child day care facilities need to have a license?<br><br>
The Department of Public Welfare regulates three types of child care facilities:<br><br>
Child Care Center - A child care facility in which seven or more children who are not related to the operator receive child care. A child care center must have a certificate of compliance ("license") from the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) in order to legally operate.<br>
Group Child Care Home - A child care facility in which seven though 12 children of various ages or in which seven though 15 children from 4th grade through 15 years of age who are not related to the operator receive child care. A group child care home must have a certificate of compliance ("license") from the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) in order to legally operate.<br>
Family Child Care Home - A child care facility located in a home in which four, five or six children who are not related to the caregiver receive child care. A family child care home must have a certificate of registration from DPW in order to legally operate.<br></i><br><br>
The "license" appears to be a certification program that sets standards of care in the facility. The state also provides an online service to locate child care providers, financial subsidies to qualified families, sets standards of care and inspects or investigates complaints about care.<br><br>
Good luck with your search for a provider.<br><br>
Edited to add: Just realized you were looking for information about preschools, not necessarily daycares. <a href="http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/standards/8709/early_learning_standards_for_pre-kindergarten/522221" target="_blank">This</a> is about early learning (preK) standards.
In NJ it means that they meet all the health dept/fire dept/etc regulations. It dictates things like how changing facilities are set up for sanitation and safety reasons. It means that the play area was inspected and up to code. It has guidelines about stuff like minimum teacher to student ratios that must be met and how much outdoor play time students get. It goes on and on. It is generally about meeting basic minimal standards for health and safety.<br><br>
Pretty much all preschools here are licensed. I believe it is illegal to run unlicensed preschools/daycares in NJ.<br><br>
As a separate thing, many preschools in this area also go through kindergarten. Then there is the question of the kindergarten being <i>certified</i>. This has to do with meeting state educational goals.
Licensed facilities in our area are ones that have been checked out, have licensed staff, and meet safety and hygeine standards when they are set up and on a regular basis. They have spot checks at daycares to ensure that they are meeting the licensing standards, but those standards do not include curricullum or staffing education. Depending on where you are it may or may not be illegal to be unlicensed. I am not sure what difference you will see in quality of care. Quality of care and licensing are two different things IMO. If you are good with kids and care about their well being you are going to be good no matter what license you have and if you aren't you are going to be horrible no matter what licensing you have.
For the purposes of licensing, there isn't a difference between a preschool and a full-day child care center. If they are both licensed, they'd have the same standards.<br><br>
Many states require programs that operate more than half days or have more than a certain number of children to be licensed.
It is not *illegal* to run an unlicensed preschool. Because of certain licensing requirments it is not required that all schools be licensed. For instance if its not open everyday, or only open during the district school hours etc (I know this from PA and dealing with this right now), under a certain number of kids, etc.<br><br>
Licensing has some requirments like certain insurance, certain paperwork filed, 2 egresses from all used floors (mulitple escape routes in case of fire etc), zoning, occupancy codes etc.<br><br>
Some schools may follow all the rules but not have the paperwork, I would think if the school was willing to share that they were not licensed you could ask why.
Ok, so it basically means that they meet certain requirements of the particular state, is that right?<br><br>
One in particular we visited was only 2 1/2 hrs located in a church, it ran 5 days a week but any particular child would either be going 2 days or 3 days a week depending on age. the other ones we visited so far were day care/preschools combined, and half or full day (schedules were flexible), and I think those were all licensed. But the half day one (which was super cheap in comparison) said they were not licensed when I asked. I figured it must not be illegal if they were so freely sharing.<br><br>
But then I found this site which says preschools do have to be licensed.<br><br><a href="http://www.babycenter.com/0_what-preschool-licensing-means_64623.bc" target="_blank">http://www.babycenter.com/0_what-pre...means_64623.bc</a><br><br>
So probably a licensed one would be more likely to follow safety guidelines? What are the guidelines concerning play surfaces in PA? I'm just thinking of the last one we visited (said they were licensed, but I haven't checked, still not sure what url that would be to check on it) and it had some play equipment (not very tall) outside on a thin mat (maybe 1/2" or 1") which was on concrete I believe. Another we visited showed us their outside play structures and and told us how many inches of cushioning there was (I forget but it was a lot) - I think it was recycled tires.<br><br>
Also the one that was in the church I dont think any of those teachers were cpr certified (current) - not sure if thats legal or not. Curious about all this, thats all. We're picking the one we feel is the right fit for our family, but in the process, (and because my sister had asked me) I realized I didnt know exactly what it meant to be licensed or if it mattered (or should matter)
Baby Center is incorrect. Each state decides what programs need to have a license. In my state, only programs that operate more than four hours need to be licensed. So a full day preschool (with AM and PM sessions) and a full day child care center both need to be licensed and follow the same criteria. Other states have different rules.<br><br>
Licensing sets minimum criteria but not being licensed doesn't mean the program isn't high quality. In my state, many of the best programs only operate 3 hours 50 minutes so they don't have to have a license. There's a huge difference between a program choosing to operate half days for program reasons (for example) and one that's operating without a license because they want to operate a program that's worse than a kennel.<br><br>
Each state determines the status of programs that are operated by religious institutions. Some require full licensing, others don't require licensing, and still others require licenses but some criteria are exempt.<br><br>
Some states require (legally) unlicensed programs to have health and safety inspections and some don't. Some states (and/or individual programs) require every teacher to be First Aid/CPR certified. Other states require one person in each classrooms. Others require that at least one person in the building be certified.<br><br>
Playground safety standards vary widely but generally permanent equipment (like swings and climbers) need to have certain amount of uncompacted mulch (or other allowed surfacing like pea gravel, solid or shredded rubber, sand, etc.) underneath. The depth depends on the height of the playstructure and the rules of the state. But, some places don't require soft surfacing under moveable structures (for example, Little Tikes climbers.)<br><br>
You really need to look at a program, spend time there, and decide what works best for your family.