Institute for Justice · December 6, 2017

Arlington, Va.—It costs around $1,900 a month for working parents to send their babies and toddlers to daycare in Washington, D.C., making it the most expensive in the United States. But D.C. wants to drive up the cost of child care by forcing hundreds of already-qualified daycare workers to spend thousands of dollars getting an unnecessary college degree. Once the new rules take effect, thousands of qualified people could lose their jobs without any benefit to D.C.’s children.

There is something parents and daycare workers can do: D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has asked for public comments on its new rulemaking. Anyone concerned about the new regulations can email their comments to [email protected], or go to All comments are due by December 17, 2017. After OSSE finalizes the new rulemaking, it will be subject to a 30-day review period by the D.C. City Council.

“D.C’s requirements make no sense, and it will be difficult for everyone to comply,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Renée Flaherty. “Daycare workers work full days, sometimes into the evening, and going to school and taking care of families on top of that just is not possible. The new rules hit the District’s immigrant community the hardest, because they will have to learn English well enough to go to college before they can even begin to earn their degrees.”

In December 2016, OSSE imposed the new rules, which require workers at daycare centers and home daycares caring for more than six children to get an associate’s degree by the end of 2020 and 2019, respectively. Other child care workers, such as nannies, are exempt, and the regulations make other irrational distinctions as well. Daycare-center workers are eligible for waivers, but home-daycare workers are not. Workers who already have degrees but no early childhood classes will have to take more early childhood classes than workers who have no degree at all.

The report that OSSE cites to justify its new rules admits that there is no empirical support for requiring daycare workers to get degrees and that there are many negative consequences to doing so. Most of the classes daycare workers will be forced to take are irrelevant to caring for children.

“D.C. officials were trying so hard to be among the first in the country to require college degrees for daycare workers, that they didn’t stop to consider whether the requirement made any sense,” said IJ Senior Attorney Robert McNamara. “More hours of schooling do not translate into better quality daycare; what matters is passion and experience caring for children.”

When OSSE originally enacted the college requirement, it did not have to report to the D.C. City Council. But this past summer—in a direct response to the controversy over the college requirement—the City Council ordered a 30-day review period on all of OSSE’s future daycare rulemakings.

Now, OSSE is proposing to extend the deadlines for daycare workers to get their degrees to 2023. “The fact that OSSE is watering down its new regulations shows even more clearly that they’re not necessary,” said Flaherty. “A college degree requirement for daycare workers still makes no sense, no matter how long people have to comply. It’s an empty credential made even emptier by a lack of urgency.”