D.C. Parents and Day Care Providers Sue to Stop Rule Requiring Providers to Earn College Degree to Watch Kids

Any parent who has raised a child knows that it takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and, most importantly, patience. The one thing it doesn’t take is a college degree. But don’t tell that to Washington, D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), which recently passed a regulation forcing the city’s day care providers to get a college degree, if they want to keep their jobs.

The new rules require staff at day care centers and home day cares caring for more than six children to obtain an associate’s degree within the next few years—causing fear and frustration among the passionate, hardworking people who care for D.C.’s children.

Day care providers understandably worry about the time and money needed to obtain a college education, especially since many of them work full time to feed their own families. Associate’s degrees are generalist degrees. Students learn college-level reading, writing and arithmetic—in addition to some specialist courses. Many of the courses day care providers will be forced to pay for and pass—such as public speaking and statistics— are completely irrelevant to caring for children. Many immigrants also face a near-insurmountable language barrier to getting a college degree. And for all the time and money they spend on the degree, the new rules will not even help kids.

Parents worry too. In D.C., annual costs at a day care center are higher than in any of the 50 states—on average $23,089 ($1,924 per month) for an infant. Waitlists for a spot at a day care center can run over a year. Adding additional education requirements will only drive up costs and reduce the number of day cares.

OSSE already requires that day care providers attend ongoing professional development, pre-service training and orientation training. In D.C.—a city with universal pre-kindergarten—the vast majority of children in day cares are under the age of three. Piling on more hours of irrelevant education does not translate into better quality day care; what matters is passion and experience caring for children.

D.C.’s college requirement for day care staff is not just bad policy; it is also unconstitutional. The college requirement violates day care providers’ right to earn a living without unreasonable government interference, and OSSE did not have the power to pass these regulations in the first place. D.C. is imposing real burdens on day care staff and parents in pursuit of imaginary benefits. That is why two day care providers and a parent have teamed up with the Institute for Justice to challenge the college requirement in federal court.

Read more about this Institute for Justice case by clicking here.

Photo: Institute for Justice