Occupational Licensing

25 Years of Experience in Child Care? Get a Degree or Lose Your Job, Says D.C.

A new lawsuit challenges a regulation that would take jobs away from capable day care workers, drive up costs, and limit access to early childhood education.


Institute for Justice

The city government in Washington, D.C., wants to require all preschool teachers to have a college degree. The plan has already been called "madness," "outrageous," and "completely wrongheaded" by parents of the very children who would, in the city's eyes at least, benefit from the rule.

Ilumi Sanchez calls it something else: a threat to her livelihood.

Sanchez has taken care of dozens of D.C. children since 1995, so she has far more experience and training in this realm than any two-year degree could bestow. She currently watches nine children throughout the day and then takes care of her family at night. When the new regulation takes effect in 2020, Sanchez will have to either spend five figures on college tuition to pursue an unnecessary degree, or move her family and her business out of the city, which comes with plenty of costs of its own.

"I love my job because I love kids. It is hard to have a bad day doing what I do. But since the regulation passed, it has been hard to stay positive," says Sanchez.

Sanchez is one of three plaintiffs—two child care providers and a parent—now suing the city with the help of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian legal firm. The federal lawsuit argues that the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE), which oversees D.C. day cares, overstepped its authority and violated the plaintiffs' constitutional right to earn a living and to equal protection under the law.

"You don't need to know how to integrate a function or write in iambic pentameter in order to take care of a newborn or toddler," says Renée Flaherty, an attorney at the Institute for Justice. "Requiring them to spend two to four years studying subjects like English literature, math, or public speaking will only serve to drive them out of business, drive up day care costs, and make finding a day care in the District even more impossible than it already is."

The average cost of child care in D.C. is more than $22,600 annually, the highest of any metropolitan area in the country, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank. That's likely to go up if the mandate goes into effect. The required degree costs about $6,000 on average for a two-year program, according to the College Board.

As Reason has previously reported, concern about those costs and about losing trusted day care providers has inspired dozens of parents to voice their opposition to the OSSE.

"A delay is not good enough—full repeal is the only responsible course of action for District families," Kate Francis, a resident of the city's northwest quadrant, wrote to the office, noting that the policy would create an enormous barrier for low-income individuals and non–English speakers to work in child care jobs. "It sickens me that OSSE can be so cavalier and reckless with the lives of District families. Ripping kids away from the caregivers they know and love will be traumatic."

Photo provided by Institute for Justice

Even highly credentialed teachers can be swept up in this nonsensical policy. Take Dale Sorcher, who has worked for two decades at the Gan HaYeled preschool in D.C. She has master's degrees in education and social work, but those don't count for the OSSE's mandate, which requires a degree specifically in early childhood education. She has joined Sanchez in her suit.

"I hope they decide that this is really stupid and makes no sense," Sorcher told Reason in December. "In certain areas, certain positions, I think life experience is way more valuable than 24 credit hours. It's crazy."

Requiring day care workers to have a college degree doesn't mean the quality of child care in D.C. will increase. Research by Diana Thomas and Devon Gorry—economists at Creighton University and Utah State University, respectively—shows that day care regulations intended to improve quality often focus on easily observable measures, such as mandatory degrees or certifications, that are more likely to increase the cost than the quality of care.

Last year, The Washington Post published a lengthy look at the new mandate's consequences. One preschool teacher, Debbie James-Dean, talked about getting up at 4:15 a.m. each day to finish homework before working a full day and then taking classes until after 9 p.m.

The OSSE says the new policy is supposed to increase the quality of day care providers, who should have skills rivaling elementary school teachers. But the mandate's supporters haven't identified any specific deficiencies in the current child care workforce.

"Early learning begets later learning, and we're really setting up a positive trajectory," Elizabeth Groginsky, the district's assistant superintendent told The Atlantic last year.

There are reasons—such as the Department of Health and Human Services's conclusion in 2010 that early childhood education "yielded only a few statistically significant differences in outcomes at the end of the 1st grade"—to be skeptical of that prediction. But even if it's true that better educated preschool teachers would be an overall improvement for D.C. children, it doesn't necessarily follow that all undereducated teachers should be banned from working. Let everyone offer their services. Some parents will pay the premium for the college-educated daycare workers, and those parents who are unable or unwilling to do so will have another choice.

Instead, the OSSE will take that choice away from parents, take jobs away from capable educators with decades of experience, and drive up costs while limiting availability of child care services even as the city's population continues to grow.

"Families depend on me, and I depend on them," says Sanchez. "I may not have a degree, but that doesn't mean I don't know what I'm doing."

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  1. I hope they decide that this is really stupid and makes no sense…

    You are in the wrong town.

  2. “Requiring them to spend two to four years studying subjects like English literature, math, or public speaking will only serve to drive them out of business, drive up day care costs, and make finding a day care in the District even more impossible than it already is.”

    This is completely false. It will also justify hiring more reliably left wing professors and administrators.

  3. Let everyone offer their services.

    Choices? What if a parent made an incorrect one?

    1. The parent would have to face the consequences of their bad choice. The bureaucrat has no such earthly limitation tying them to terra firma. They can fly on the wings of creativity, bringing joy and progress to all.

      Well. Maybe not all, and yet certainly those who count.

      1. What’s your alternative?! You’ve got no solutions!

        1. (snigger)

          1. Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

            *swishes hair, sweeps away wearing Fist’s sunglasses*

    2. What if the government makes the wrong choice?

  4. College professors are not qualified to teach junior high school, either. It’s all about the credentials, it’s a sort of cargo cult thing. And that’s when you know an institution’s finished, when they’re following the form long after they’ve forgotten the function.

  5. I’m surprised nobody has declared DC to be too obscene for children to see or experience. We got pretty close with “Killing Joke,” though.

  6. “Requiring them to spend two to four years studying subjects like English literature, math, or public speaking will only serve to drive them out of business, drive up day care costs, and make finding a day care in the District even more impossible than it already is.”

    “Oh, very well. We’ll require them to spend two to four years studying subjects like hygienically changing diapers or properly entertaining a toddler.”

  7. How many members of the DC city council are on crack these days?


    1. If they are, it’s probably because when they were children their daycare providers were un-degreed.

  8. “Families depend on me, and I depend on them,” says Sanchez. “I may not have a degree, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I’m doing.”

    Yes it does. That’s exactly what it means. No one has value until the appropriate paper has been signed – and paid for.

    Disclaimer: MichaeI Hihn does not endorse this message brought to you by the Ministry of Truth, and the letter L.

  9. Next they’ll demand a special license to raise your own child.

    You think I jest. I don’t.

    1. It’s true, EES never, ever jests. He was once voted Cirque du Soleil’s Worst Ever Audience Participant.

      1. Well, Tony is always trying to get me to be more progressive. Being humorless is a key part of the training.

    2. You have to have a license to own a dog but any asshole can have a kid.

  10. Hopefully, if child care becomes expensive enough, Progressives can drive working women back into the kitchen where they belong.

    1. But they’ll need a college degree to make you a sammich.

      1. Well, not a college degree. But definitely a food handler’s license and a kitchen inspection from the Board of Health.

        1. as long as no knives are used

          1. No one wants another Night Of The Long Knives. But a Night Of The Thong Wives would be nice.

      2. How else will they know that sammiches should be cut at precisely a 45 degree angle?

        1. It’s about showing proficiency. You know, because a 46 degree angle cut would bring disaster to the world

      3. And a kitchen that’s up to commercial code as well as food that is hygenically packaged.

  11. Sometimes I wonder if this overcredentialing in education comes from a point of vanity. Maybe a lot of parents just believe that their children are so great, that they need to make sure they’re 1st grade teacher has a Master’s degree.

    Like it’s just stocking parents egos about their children’s own abilities.

    1. more likely a degreed “professional” making shit for wages as an intern is jealous of her no degreed neighbor making a fortune taking care of kids.


      they just don’t like kids in their neighborhood with all the parents tying up traffic dropping off their kids every morning and afternoon

      any choice is probably correct

    2. All the most qualified people I know, who could easily add a deluge of acronyms and initials after their name in professional communications actually don’t use any of them. They don’t seem to need to. It must be tempting to whip it out sometimes once patience runs out with an idiot knowitall.

      An exception seems to be medical professions such as dentists or therapists, who are presenting themselves to the public rather than fellow professionals.

  12. I Heart IFJ

    1. What does the Irish Farmers Journal have to do with this.

      1. Potatoes.

        1. Hello

  13. The city government in Washington, D.C., wants to require all preschool teachers to have a college degree.

    Between this and the call for universal pre-K, I can’t help but think this whole deal is just about getting more money into colleges.

    1. What’s your alternative?

      1. I’m going to not have anymore children. I also demand that everyone else stop having children. Besides being fodder for the state children never asked to be born and therefore having them is an act of aggression.

        1. I miss Hey Nikki.

  14. the goal is forced government day care by removing competition so that the sheep will blay for the government to step in

  15. I see where the compromise is headed: grandfather clause.

  16. There is a conflict between families who want affordable child-care and ideological feminists who support credentialism and want child-care workers paid more.

    1. Looks like the latter are winning.

  17. Getting closer to requiring a degree to have a child – period

    1. Autoobstretric studies?

  18. Experience means everything in the job searching business. Whether you have little or a lot of it you need to masterfully present in in the resume. A resume is like a business card that sells you skills, achievements and mostly your experience. A degree is also an essential part of your work history. You need to think about getting a degree if you want to get a decent salary. When you do get a degree it would be easier for you to cooperate with the services that do essay writing website reviews and find there a writer that does quality resumes as well.

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