The Atlantic

D.C.'s Misguided Attempt to Regulate Daycare

Requiring child-care workers to have college degrees will likely widen the capital’s economic disparities.

Source: William Whitehurst / Getty

In Washington, D.C., daycare for infants and children younger than preschool-age costs $23,000 per child on average, only $2,000 less than the countrywide average for out-of-state college tuition. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, in her latest State of the District address, said high child-care costs are a major factor driving people out of the city.

Prices upwards of $2,000 per month can be a tough prospect even for relatively well-off parents. For poorer parents, these costs are out of the question, and government assistance in the form of vouchers and other programs often isn’t enough to make up the gap between what they can afford and what it takes to have any child-care options at all. Take D.C.’s child-care workers themselves. With their wages—roughly $10 to $15 per hour—they could likely never afford to have a kid in child care.

In December, D.C.'s education department promulgated a new policy that it argued put it a step ahead of the rest of the country on child-care issues. Critics, however, say that it threatens to make a bad situation—wages workers can barely live on and costs parents can hardly live with—worse. Namely, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) issued regulations that require child-care workers to have college degrees. According to the OSSE’s new rules, released in December, by 2020 directors of child-care facilities will have to have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood

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