Affordable and safe daycare is a big concern of working parents, but a mandate by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education in Washington, D.C. is likely to make the costs skyrocket without improving the service.
The mandate, which hasn't been put into effect yet, would require daycare workers in the District to obtain a college degree in early childhood education by 2020. A degree in another field won't help a daycare worker, ever how beloved and good at the job.
Reason magazine recently obtained 400 pages of public comments submitted to the Superintendent's office on what might be the outcome if the mandate is implemented. Reason writes:
Lyndsey Fifeld said she and her partner did the math and realized that it would be more affordable for her to quit a full-time job and stay home with her kids (along with providing childcare for someone else), rather than continuing to work and pay for child care.
"Yes, that's right," she told the OSSE. "I could get work providing childcare—taking the job away from another perfectly qualified, younger DC resident who needs the work experience and paycheck and putting my career on ice."
Parents who left comments on the proposed OSSE policy don't seem too concerned with the current quality of care in the city's daycares and preschools.
"My son, who just turned one, is looked after by three kind, loving women at a home day care center in DC. None of his caregivers have advanced degrees, but they are excellent at their jobs, wrote Laura Hall, a resident of 8th Street NW, in one of the comments. "Imposing a requirement for a college degree would be an incredible burden for these women, and would likely result in them having to find alternate employment and closing their small business."
If parents believe a degreed daycare worker is essential to their child's thriving, there is already an option, as reason notes:
And if parents want to seek-out daycare programs staffed with college-educated workers, they are free to do that now.
"Most DC parents are savvy consumers and most DC center compete fiercely for business," wrote Kenan Fikri in one emailed comment to OSSE. "Many parents who demand a more credentialed workforce can seek out centers that choose to make that part of their business model."
Making it mandatory for all workers to have a degree will eliminate those businesses' competitive advantage and will compound the existing shortage of daycare workers in the city.
"You claim to want higher wages and better jobs for DC residents," wrote Fifeld. "Well, the real minimum wage is $0, and implementing this regulation would assure many hardworking men and women of that fate."
The new requirement will be a hardship for many workers (and it is a field that attracts predominantly women) who might end up out of a job or having to charge more. Daycare in D.C. is already expensive (it can be $22, 600) and an estimate from one think tank puts the possible increase because of the mandate at $6,000 a year. Obviously, good daycare is important but, if this mandate is put into effect, it is likely to eliminate loving and proficient workers in a field that needs women who do a great job and care about children.
The Reason story quoted Ashley Carter, at large representative to the District's State Board of Education and my colleague at IWF, as having listened to complaints from parents and believing that the mandate should not go into effect.