by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
After a four-year legal battle, onerous and unneeded regulations on day-care workers are going into effect in Washington, D.C. Center directors will have to have bachelor’s degrees, teachers to have associate’s degrees, and assistant teachers to have a child-development associate credential.
And so the country’s most expensive child care is about to get even more expensive.
A year of child care in Washington, D.C., already costs $24,378 on average, which is 79 percent of the median income for single parents and nearly twice as expensive as public-university tuition. One way to cut costs would be to make it easier for new workers to enter the field, thereby increasing the supply of child care.
But the D.C. government decided to make it harder instead. Proponents of the credential regulation say that academic research finds that early childhood care is important to lifetime outcomes and should therefore be provided by a professionalized workforce.
The law was challenged in court, but the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the regulation satisfied the rational-basis test for economic regulation. In part of the opinion, it said that even if portions of the credentialing are irrelevant to providing child care, it could still be required because “any adult who has been flummoxed by a two-year-old repeatedly asking ‘why’ can attest” that extraneous knowledge is sometimes useful.
As George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin wrote, the court’s reasoning was ridiculous — parents with no academic training have been handling inquisitive toddlers for millennia — but it was in line with current Supreme Court precedent on economic regulation. That such reasoning can be sufficient would suggest that it might be beneficial for the Court’s precedent to be reconsidered.