Who’s Watching Junior?

Childcare has become a hot button issue from all angles. Parents with young children have discovered the relative connection between their little darlin’ needing someone to keep them out of the liquor cabinet and how that damn kid keeps them from doing what they want, like going to work. What to do? Childcare, because don’t parents have a right to feel accomplished and fulfilled, and locking this little brat in a closet under the stairs is frowned upon?

But childcare is too expensive. But the people who work at childcare who have neither education nor specialized skills are underpaid. But the people who work at childcare should be able to make junior the best toddler he can be so mom and dad don’t feel guilty for not being sure which kid is theirs when they arrive for pickup. In Washington, D.C., these conflicted desires came together in a local rule requiring childcare workers to have, at minimum, an associates degree. And the D.C. Circuit, Judge Sri Srinivasan, held the law constitutional.

Sounds good, having the people employed by your childcare provider better educated? As a general notion, sure, why not? But as a condition of employment, the more salient question is why?

As described by the court, the DC regulation requires childcare workers in “child development homes” – defined as “private residences where two or more caregivers are responsible for up to twelve children” to have “at least an associate’s degree ‘with a major in early childhood education, early childhood development, child and family studies or a closely related field.'” Teachers in “childcare facilities serving more than twelve children outside the operator’s home” are required to either get an associate’s degree of the type described above or – if they already have a college degree in another field – they may instead “complete at least twenty-four credit hours [of higher education] in subjects related to early-childhood education.”

See the problem yet? Initially, the connection between having a degree and a contribution to the performance of one’s position caring for children is there, but rather tenuous.

The DC Circuit concluded that the DC child care regulation passes the test because getting a degree in early childhood education pretty clearly facilitates provision of childcare. Even if some of the courses workers could take under the requirement do not relate to child care,  “OSSE [the agency issuing the regulation]could [still] rationally issue the challenged regulations without needing to parse the curriculum of any particular school.” Indeed, “Even if all associate’s degree programs contain at least some irrelevant content, still could have rationally concluded that requiring childcare workers to complete a predominantly relevant course of study will improve the quality of care young children receive.” Furthermore, even course content irrelevant to child care, as such, could rationally be required “A variety of courses outside the early-childhood major, from math and English to art and history, could be beneficial to someone tasked with the educational development of toddlers—as any adult who has been flummoxed by a two-year-old repeatedly asking ‘why’ can attest.”

It’s weak, but adequate to survive rational basis scrutiny which requires little more than passing the laugh test no matter how many excuses needed to be made to connect the dots. Remember, the efficacy of the choice is left to the body making the rules, and the court’s concern is not whether it’s a good idea, but whether it’s unlawful. So you see the problem yet?

This reasoning is utterly ridiculous. Any adult with experience in caring for small children knows that it’s perfectly possible to do the job well without having a college degree of any kind. When I was in middle school and high school, I spent hundreds of hours working as a babysitter for toddlers, all without ever feeling the need to for any information that could only be learned in college (indeed, I didn’t even have a high school diploma at the time). Rare is the parent who, in choosing daycare facilities, cares whether the employees have college degrees or not.

Now? Oh come on. Does Ilya Somin have to spell it out for you? Fine.

The court’s rationale for the regulation also errs in conflating two different services: childcare and education. Even if higher education credentials are valuable for the latter, they are not necessary for the former. The DC regulation applies even to facilities that just provide care, without claiming to educate.

Childcare isn’t teaching. Sure, there is always some element of teaching involved whenever one is dealing with children, but that’s not the job. The job is returning the child to the parent at the end of the day fed, clean and with nothing broken. It’s babysitting. It’s a grownup watching a child while the parents are doing something else. If grandma doesn’t have a college degree, does that mean she can’t watch the kids? Or Sally from down the street when you want to go out to dinner?

What’s curious here is that regulations limiting who may be employed in occupations has come under fire as harmful to marginalized communities. Gatekeepers refuse to allow a person to braid eyebrows without 1000 hours of school, so why not childcare? Of course, the better question is why require 1000 hours of eyebrow braiders, but I digress.

Adding a college degree, even an associates’, will necessarily preclude a significant number of people from being employed in childcare, which was already paying too little according to those who believe that wages should be set at the amount necessary for a person to live a decent life rather than the amount dictated by the employment marketplace.

Those who possess this degree will, reasonably, demand higher pay than those without it. And that means the cost of childcare, which is largely wages, will increase, even as marginalized people are no longer able to get the job. And that means the cost of childcare to parents who may be forced to work to feed their children or want to work to feel self-actualization will go up, and it’s already prohibitively expensive.

Whoever is going to pay for this morass? Sit down. I have something to tell you and it’s going to make you sad.

14 thoughts on “Who’s Watching Junior?

  1. Hunting Guy

    Madeleine M. Kunin.

    “ As for a fantasy life, working women are more likely to fantasize about finding the perfect child care provider who she can both trust and afford. She might also fantasize that tonight her husband will both shop for and cook dinner.”

  2. rxc

    It is part of the great march thru the institutions. In this case, the institution is the family, Hillary described the plan quite clearly – “It takes a Village to Raise a Child”. And there is a utopian tome to describe how it all turns out – “Brave New World”.

    A part of this vision was passed into law in Scotland in 2014 via the “Named Persons ” scheme, which required that every child be assigned a professional advocate, not a relative, to determine what was in the best interests of the child. It was mostly ignored until the parents realized what was going to happen to them, and then the uproar caused the politicians to reconsider their plans in 2019.

    I recently discovered Woodrow Wilson’s famous paper about administration. It could be used today, with minor updates to some of the language, to describe the leftists plans and aspirations. Including replacement of the family with competent, compassionate professionals with degrees in child care, education, and rearing. It seems like millions of years of childrearing was not good enough, so that system needs to be re-imagined and replaced with a modern, progressive one.

    It is interesting that the same people who push for having the state control childcare and childrearing also support encouraging and allowing 14 year old boys to decide that they are girls, and make the appropriate significant changes to their bodies to carry this out. Then, they can have “sex?” with someone, get pregnant, make a decision whether they should carry and deliver the baby (at age 16 or so), or have an abortion. If they have the baby, then it is not clear who they would want to take care of it while they are going to school – the child who bore it, who they seriously consider to have been competent to decide to have sex and whether to bear it, or the state.

    I can only conclude that the purpose of all of this is to destroy the institution of the family, and have it taken over by the state.

    1. Hunting Guy

      Annie Lowrey.

      “The Trump administration, to its credit, has initiatives on housing. It has initiatives on child care.”

  3. Mike Guenther

    It all started back in the day when the first childcare facility began advertising education as a perk of their establishment in order to get a leg up on the competition. Pretty soon, all childcare had to tell the lie that they could give all those rug rats under their care, a leg up on their kindergarten contemporaries by teaching them their ABC’s and 123’s.

  4. Erik Hammarlund

    I don’t understand how you can even opine on this. Do you have a degree in Childcare Studies? Have you done the reading?

  5. Curtis

    “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” But rarely is the answer so clearly and simply wrong.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    I predict a sudden shortage of day care slots in DC and a lot of movement to Maryland. Followed by hand wringing editorials insisting something must be done about the “childcare crisis”.
    The obsession with credentials looks good in the PowerPoint slides created by people who grew up affluent and college bound but looks very different for the actual workers.

  7. Will

    No thoughts at all by the rule makers or the court on just how these individuals going to be able to afford the college courses in order to keep their jobs. As you pointed out, childcare isn’t a high paying job and that includes the government paid positions on military bases with the desired education.

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