Daycare Credentialism in the District

As of 2014, the average annual cost of childcare for a single 4-year old in the District of Columbia was $16,908—the highest in the country. But the local government is determined to make it even more unaffordable. Inside Higher Education reports:

A new regulation in Washington sets an associate degree as the minimum credential for a lead teacher in a child-care center. The District of Columbia’s child-care providers have until December 2020 to meet the new regulation. Child-care directors must also earn at least a bachelor’s degree, and home-care providers and assistant teachers must have a child development associate credential, which is an entry-level certificate for providers.

This regulation will have a similar impact to licensing requirements that have proliferated across other service jobs, forcing manicurists, florists, and personal trainers to go through thousands of hours of expensive and often gratuitous training to be able to work. That is, it will artificially raise the price of services, entrench established businesses, and shut less-skilled people out of the labor market.

Proponents of the policy argue that it will help level the playing field for low-income children. But the evidence that forcing daycare teachers to earn degrees will on its own meaningfully improve children’s outcomes is shaky. And it seems more likely that the regulation will simply force working class parents who don’t qualify for subsidies to pull their children out of daycare altogether as the decline in competition jacks up prices.

We will await results in the coming years, but this policy seems like dead-end credentialism that will hurt aspiring teachers, working parents and their children for the benefit of high-end daycare facilities and the community colleges who will be able to charge tuition from a wave of involuntary new enrollees.

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