According to The Washington Post, the District of Columbia will now “require child-care workers to get college degrees.”
A central part of [this] mission is educating a workforce that historically has been paid and treated like babysitters. What the job demands is closer to the work of elementary school teachers, scientists say.
This initiative comes in the heels of a 2015 study from the National Academies of Science “that says the child-care workforce has not kept pace with the science of child development and early learning.”
Here are four reasons this initiative is ludicrous:
1. Lost Jobs
Many caregivers will have neither the time nor the money to get a college degree, or complete an equivalent training program. As such, some caregivers will lose their jobs because of this requirement.
The Washington Post even mentions a woman who quit her job at a care-center because she didn’t have the time to go back to school, as well as another woman who is already in tuition debt:
…Lynita Law-Reid, the director at Kids Are Us, said she knew the credential requirements were coming, so last year she created employee agreements and asked each employee to commit to progressing through a higher-education program. So far, just two of her 16 teachers have associate degrees.
Many of her employees are mothers, or single mothers, with little personal time and flexibility. One employee left her job because she could not commit to going back to school, Law-Reid said…One employee said she already owes back tuition and could not log on to her courses until she finished paying down her bill.
There are scholarship programs, such as the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship, that offer help. However, not all care-givers will be granted scholarships.
2. Low Wages
As The Washington Post report notes, many “center directors have few resources to tap if they want to reward their better-educated employees.” Considering the strapped nature of child-care facilities, the caregivers that actually have the time and money to complete a formal degree process will receive no reward for their work.
If a child-care center does want to reward the employees they forced to earn degrees, that money will likely come in the form of higher prices for daycare and preschool. As it stands, Washington D.C. is the most expensive area in the United States for child-care, according to a study conducted by Child Care Aware of America.
The Washington Post writes:
In D.C., a year of infant care in a day-care center costs $22,631, which is more than three times what it costs for a year at a public college in the city.
Infant center-based care — which is more expensive than sending a child to day care in a home — takes about 14 percent of the average married family’s income. For the average single parent, the cost for this day care would consume more than 88 percent of income.
Forcing employees to get a degree while offering absolutely no incentive to do so aside from “If you don’t, you’re fired” is a particular brand of cruelty.
3. Degree Requirements
Debbie James-Dean, an employee at Kids Are Us, was apprehensive when she first heard about the new regulations. After she was awarded a scholarship, however, she became excited at the thought of pursuing a degree.
That’s all well and good, but The Washington Post piece notes that James-Dean will be taking math classes, as well as a “philosophy of religion” class. In what world does a child-care provider need a degree encompassing “philosophy of religion” and college-level math? Will she be giving a seminar regarding the differing teachings of Islam and Christianity for her class of 4-year-olds?
If caregivers are being forced to earn degrees in order to benefit the children they serve, why can’t they be more specified? That way, a low-income individual wouldn’t have to take college-level math, or choose from a random assortment of electives that have absolutely nothing to do with early childhood education, in order to keep their job.
This is a money drain, and a regulatory hurdle that hasn’t been given nearly enough thought.
4. Higher Prices for Parents
As The Washington Post writes: “In the end, early-child-care teachers that go on to earn diplomas often leave their jobs to work in public schools, where they can earn substantially more.”
In order to retain caregivers who have sacrificed time and money to earn a degree, child-care centers will have to reward their employees with more money. Since many centers are maxed out, such salary increases will necessitate price hikes. As previously mentioned, D.C. is already the most expensive area in the United States for early childhood care. Adding to that burden would be egregious, and it would harm low income parents the most.
This is yet another example of onerous and ill-conceived regulations posing a threat to the livelihoods of a particular group of Americans, the effects of which ripple outward, harming numerous other groups in the process.