Institute for Justice · January 14, 2021

Late Wednesday, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit filed by two day care providers and a D.C. parent alongside the Institute for Justice (IJ) challenging a requirement by Washington, D.C. regulators in the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) that day care providers obtain a college degree or look for another job.

When OSSE enacted the regulations in 2016, it did not cite any specific research to support its college requirement, but an OSSE official said the regulations were inspired by a 2015 report by the National Academies. That report actually stated that there is no empirical support for requiring day care providers to get college degrees and that there are many negative consequences in doing so. For example, the requirement threatens to put many lower-income women, often immigrants, out of work unless they upend their lives to obtain a college degree that adds nothing to their ability to care for children.

The district court opinion did not say that the degree requirement makes sense. Instead, the court concluded only that the plaintiffs failed to “establish that there is not ‘any reasonable conceivable state of facts that could’” support the degree requirement, further noting that the court “offers no evaluation of the real burdens it imposes on workers that may lose their jobs or on parents who are likely to pay more for childcare as a result.” But requiring college training when it’s been shown not to provide the skills those workers need (and in facts harms them) establishes the lack of any justification for the degree requirement.

“These regulations only serve to drive up the cost of child care in the District, when it’s already the most expensive in the country,” said IJ Attorney Renée Flaherty. “The degree requirement is not just a bad idea. The District’s arbitrary and irrational requirement violates day care providers’ right to earn an honest living guaranteed by the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We will be appealing the district court’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.”