Something to Emulate in Washington, D.C.!

By Jennifer Brooks
Children’s Council Chief Program Officer

As a 10-year resident of Washington, D.C., I still follow local politics there, and take pride when city leaders make policies that help low-income families. So, I was cheered to read in the Washington Post about the new D.C. licensing requirement that all child care teachers earn an Associate’s degree.

Although they are often paid like babysitters, child care providers are our children’s first teachers and they need the skills to support children’s social, emotional and cognitive development.

What I worry about, however, is the return on investment for the caregivers themselves. College students who major in early childhood education have the lowest lifetime earnings of any college degree. Without a parallel commitment to pay child care providers wages commensurate with their skills, there could be serious unintended consequences (the article cites workforce shortages, reduced diversity in the child care profession and higher out-of-pocket costs for families).

The market forces at play in Washington, D.C., are similar to those here in San Francisco—both cities have a relatively small number of young children and a very high cost of living.

Also like Washington, D.C., our city has a history of substantial local investment in early care and education. The San Francisco Office of Early Care and Education is taking an important step toward making child care a desirable profession by augmenting the low reimbursement rates paid to child care providers who care for low-income children.

The challenge for us in San Francisco is the same as it is for cities and states across the country: How do we drive down costs for parents while increasing incomes for child care providers? If we can figure this out, everybody—parents, child care providers and, most importantly, children—wins!

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