istock

Call it the day-care disaster.

Instead of advancing the well-being of children in the District, the agency that regulates day-care facilities hurt the teachers on whom my family relies and whom my daughter loves. To protect my child’s interests — and the interests of hundreds of others — I am taking the agency to court.

Day care in the District is regulated by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which sets the standards for the caregivers’ and center administrators’ yearly education and safety training. In a dramatic change made last year, OSSE will soon require caregivers to have a college degree. The choice is this: Either they obtain a degree by the year 2020 or they obtain new profession.

OSSE suggested the new policy will promote early learning. Thus far, it’s promoted stressful days and long nights, forcing my daughter’s teachers to attend night school after working eight-hour days with infants and toddlers, and take on additional costs to pay for the degree. It has already created hiring challenges. My daughter’s day care started hiring only college-educated workers in preparation for this policy. Accordingly, it’s locked out experienced child caregivers with high school degrees. It also promises to increase costs, further burdening D.C. families who are already struggling with average day care costs of $2,000 per month, among the highest in the nation.

This regulation by OSSE is a solution in search of a problem.

Although my daughter’s caregivers don’t all have college degrees, they are well-trained and very experienced in working with infants or toddlers. Centers like my daughter’s also feature enrichment programs for infants and toddlers. For example, a typical day for my 1-year old involves “circle time” (group activity with other babies), gross motor development with floor time, story time, music (including singing words in Spanish), fine-motor-skill development with art and plenty of nap time and meals.

My daughter has benefited considerably from participating in these activities with engaging and loving caregivers. I’ve benefitted as well: I have a higher degree, and yet I frequently find myself asking the caregivers questions and seeking their input on how to advance my daughter’s development. I appreciate their experience far more than their educational attainment.

It’s not just current parents who should be concerned about this regulation; future parents should be concerned as well. The college degree requirement will raise day-care costs by shrinking the pool of workers eligible to staff them.

That’s a big problem. As any D.C. parent can tell you, finding a good day care is hard work. I spent countless hours researching and competing for a spot at a center with well-trained workers and center administrators, a clean and safe environment and enrichment activities with learning objectives. When an opportunity presented itself, I made a hefty non-refundable deposit without hesitation, relieved to have secured my daughter’s place in the center.

Like many families, I want well-trained, loving and patient teachers for my daughter. OSSE has regulations for day-care safety in place and today’s workers must meet those standards each year. But you can’t regulate a loving and patient demeanor — or get it through a college degree. Rather, that comes from spending years changing diapers and giving hugs, things that can’t be learned sitting in a classroom.

My lawsuit is not just on behalf of my daughter. It is for the many children, parents and day-care providers who will be harmed by this unnecessary and burdensome regulation. D.C. leaders know that the lack of available, quality day care is a problem. OSSE is making this problem worse. I have full faith in the day care I selected for my daughter. The D.C. government should not question that decision. I hope that the courts will recognize my right to care for my daughter as I see fit and the right of my daughter’s teachers to continue in a profession they know and love.

Jill Homan, a D.C. parent, partnered with the Institute for Justice to file a lawsuit challenging D.C.’s day-care education requirements.