WASHINGTON (CN) – Parents and day care workers sued the governing body of the District of Columbia’s child day care system Thursday, challenging a new policy that requires day care workers to have college degrees.
The policy was enacted in late 2016 but doesn’t go into effect until 2023. While in the past, the majority of day care workers were required to have successfully completed a 120-hour certification program, the new policy requires center directors to hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and teachers at least an associate’s degree.
Facilities that fail to comply with the new requirements could face penalties or fines, with some exemptions being made for religious institutions.
“In a race to be among the first to require college degrees for day care providers, [Office of the State Superintendent of Education] enacted its new regulations via administrative rulemaking with no oversight from the D.C. City Council,” says the complaint filed by Institute for Justice lawyer Renee Flaherty. “As a result, people who struggle to feed their own families will be forced to attend and pay for irrelevant college courses.”
The 39-page complaint goes on to claim the new requirements violate teachers’ civil rights by interfering with their right to earn a living “without unreasonable government interference and to equal protection of the laws.”
In a statement published on the defendant Office of the State Superintendent of Education website shortly after the rule change was announced, the agency said the new mandates were intended to ensure daycare facilities in the district are “not only safe, but also support children’s healthy development, future academic achievement and success by establishing the minimum requirements necessary to protect the health, safety, welfare, and positive development of children in care.”
The new requirements, the statement said, also reflect current research and best practices in child development in line with the federal grant the agency receives to help fund the programs.
But the plaintiffs claim the new degree mandates go well beyond what the federal grant requires, and will cause undue hardship to teachers and administrators already employed in the district’s day care system.
“The time required to obtain an associate’s degree is an insurmountable obstacle to many day care providers who work full time and have other responsibilities such as caring for their own families,” the complaint says.
The plaintiffs seek declarative and injunctive relief.
A spokesman for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education said in an email that the agency “remains committed to the health, safety and welfare of our youngest and most vulnerable residents.
“We will take any necessary steps to abide by the court’s ruling, including working with the D.C. Council on any changes to legislation that currently requires random drug testing for all persons who care for infants and toddlers,” the statement said.