Daycare of Hard Knox: Why a Knoxville Daycare Owner Lost her Livelihood

When Jacoyia Wakefield decided to create her own daycare business, she did everything right. She read up on Knoxville’s business regulations, consulted with a city official, and obtained a business license per the official’s advice. As long as she cared for less than five unrelated toddlers, she technically did not even need a license, but obtained one anyway to be on the safe side as this was her main source of income.

As a stay-at-home mom, her business has granted her the ability to raise her children while caring for and educating other children in the community. “Parents want to know that their children are benefiting from one-on-one interaction, and that’s something that just can’t be achieved at commercial day cares,” Jacoyia explained. “My services are also much more inexpensive, which has been the saving grace for parents who simply can’t afford pricier centers.”

Because Jacoyia lives in a historical neighborhood, she is required to obtain a “use on review” permit to run a business out of her home. In January, the Knoxville-Knox County Metropolitan Planning Commission approved Jacoyia’s application for a use on review permit, officially allowing her to operate her home-based business.

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That should be the end of the story. But some of Jacoyia’s neighbors took issue with her self-made business. One commented that “this is not just a simple off-site nanny with four children. It is not a simple stay-at-home mom in Holston Hills watching some neighborhood kids. This is a preschool.”

But the fact is that Jacoyia’s business is a daycare, including in the eyes of the planning commission. If it were viewed as a preschool, the planning commission would have required her to obtain an early childhood education technical certificate to license her as a teacher, a certification that was never even considered. Unfortunately, the group of disgruntled neighbors vied for her permit to go to appeal, and the city council overturned the planning commission’s decision, rescinding Jacoyia’s permit.

Jacoyia has since obtained legal counsel and has filed an appeal to have her permit returned to her. But hard-working Americans like Jacoyia shouldn’t have to fight for their rights to maintain wholesome businesses, especially when these liberties have enabled entrepreneurs to provide for their families and communities.

Local governments need to focus on working for entrepreneurs like Jacoyia, and support those who have decided to take their future into their own hands and work for a fulfilling cause. But this war on entrepreneurship has raged on across the country, with states like Arizona, Minnesota and Texas providing the battlefields for hard working, passionate Americans to defend their right to give back to their communities through practices like animal massage, cottage food production and hair braiding.

The Institute for Justice continues to fight for self-made men and women whose personal liberties have fallen victim to over-regulation. We hope that Knoxville’s city council will see Jacoyia for what she is—an upstanding member of her community, looking to do good in the best way she can.

— Phil Applebaum
Phil Applebaum is a Maffucci Fellow at the Institute for Justice

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