You want the person you leave your child with all day to be attentive. You want them know CPR. But do you want them to have a college degree?
That’s the divisive issue sparking protest in Washington, DC.
A group of day care providers will hold regular demonstrations in the nation’s capital to protest new requirements mandating teachers of infants and toddlers to earn Associate's degrees. The requirements went into effect in December, and DC is one of the first to implement them on a citywide scale. (Higher education is already a requirement on a program-wide scale for preschool teachers involved in initiatives like Head Start.)
At face value, the requirements seem well intentioned:
“The achievement gap starts early, and we know that 70 percent of a child’s brain develops in the first year of life. A well-educated and prepared early childhood workforce is essential to ensuring that children in the District of Columbia receive the highest quality care in the centers they attend,” Patience Peabody, director of communications for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, said in a statement to the Washington Post.
But the reality, according to teachers and day care employees, is that facilities will be shut down and low-income professionals will lose their jobs without adequate support from the government. Many earn minimum wage, making paying for courses and textbooks difficult. And many say it’s unnecessary.
“Changing diapers and showing them love, unconditional love. Giving them a bottle, giving them food. You don’t need an associates degree to do any of that,” says Mildred King Chatman, who used to run a day care at her church.
While you may not need an associates degree to do any of that, the intention here is to arm day care employees with tools necessary to not only watch your kids, but to give them an educational head start. Every first experience helps shape baby’s brain, which quadruples in size by the end of preschool.
Peabody says DC is “committed to supporting our child development educators through this transition” in the form of government subsidies and $3 million in scholarship funds.