D.C.'s smallest learners will soon be the first in the country to have caretakers who are required to have university degrees.
Elizabeth Groginsky, D.C.’s Assistant Superintendent of Early Learning, said scientific research shows quality early childhood education- for kids 3 years and younger- helps close the achievement gap and has a life-long impact.
“Those early opportunities that they have really set the foundation for their potential success long term,” Groginsky said.
The change means that at a minimum anyone working in a child care center will have to have a CDA, which is a child Development Associate's Credential. But most teachers will need a two-year associate's degree, by 2020. Anyone running a daycare will need a bachelor's degree.
There will be special waivers for people who have 10 or more years of experience.
Donna Mason, Executive Director at St. Albans Early Childhood Center said it’s a positive thing for kids.
“Progressive. It's ambitious. I think it's a step in the right direction,” she said.
But she also said she sees challenges for people who are currently working full-time.
“The challenge will be funding because you're asking people who don't make a lot of money to finance their education and possibly take out student loans which they will have to pay back with interest rates," Mason added.
Currently, early childhood education offers degree seekers the lowest financial return on their credential, at the bottom of a list of 323 careers, according to Payscale.com.
The District is offering a number of scholarships, but Valora Washington, CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, worries there won’t be enough to go around.
“There are about 4,000 workers in the District," she said. “I would say about half don't have an associate's degree."
Washington said it will also be more difficult for child care centers to retain well qualified teachers if their pay doesn’t go up along with their schooling.
“If we don't pay childcare workers more- they're not going to stay,” Washington said.
But paying child care workers more could mean even higher fees for D.C. parents, when the average household is already paying among the highest in the country.
For parents like David Adesnik, it’s hard to put a price on quality care.
"I guess the question is how much,” he asked. “It's obviously a substantial burden."