Washington, D.C., Going to Require Pre-K Workers to Have College Degrees

by Paul Crookston

Washington D.C. is requiring all child-care workers to have college degrees by the year 2020. That earns the District the dubious distinction of being one of the first cities in the country to do so. The results will be devastating to child-care teachers who have years of experience but no certification from an institute of higher learning.

Essentially, the new regulations will require those who teach pre-kindergarten to go back to school or find a new job. The Washington Post highlighted Debbie James-Dean, who “graduated from high school in 1979 and has spent much of her career working in child care,” yet still must get an associate’s degree to continue in her vocation. James-Dean was able to get a scholarship to take college courses, but not all workers will be so lucky.

In the Post’s story, Michael Alison Chandler summarizes the expectations for child-care workers, which supposedly necessitate more education:

They need tools to diagnose and intervene when they see learning or emotional problems. And they need literacy skills to introduce young learners to an expansive vocabulary, exposure many children do not have at home and are currently not getting in day care.

Is it really inconceivable that an able high-school graduate could help a two year old with “learning or emotional problems” or with expanding his vocabulary? Surely even the smartest four year old alive could learn new words from a high-school graduate — certainly one with experience or good training?

Bluntly, this change will do little, if anything for kids, and it will cause rising costs in D.C. and harm workers. In addition, it will funnel more and more people into debt-incurring accreditation programs that, over time, will become even more bloated than they currently are. Studies from the Brookings Institution and elsewhere suggest that most licensing requirements don’t increase safety or quality, only costs. Moreover, it is well established that occupational licensing requirements generally disadvantage the working class and poor, because they bar people from jobs that they would otherwise be able to perform without more education. Alas, none of these drawbacks is stopping big-government planners from pressing forward with this regulation.

The good news is that very few parts of the country are locking out people with no college degree as Washington plans to do. The bad news is that, according to the Post’s story, “early education advocates across the country are hopeful that the District can set an example of how a workforce can be transformed.” They must be stopped. This is the attitude that leads to states requiring comprehensive cosmetology certifications for braiding hair, licenses for auctioneering, and certifications for travel guides.

The Corner

The one and only.