Staff Editorial: Extending deadline for degree requirements will help preschools

Preschool providers protest outside the Wilson Building June 5. (Mark Lieberman/The Current/June 2017)

Located at the crossroads between daycare and education, preschools have proved challenging to pin down in terms of appropriate regulatory requirements. The D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education decided late last year that all preschool staff need a college education, prompting an outcry from providers that the rules would drive up costs and force out qualified workers.

We share preschool operators’ ongoing objection that the District developed a host of regulations without an adequate opportunity for input. But we appreciate that the superintendent has reached a new compromise: giving preschools additional time — another one to four years, depending on the position — to make new hires or let their existing staff secure degrees.

Originally, preschool teachers had only until December 2020 to secure an associate degree in early childhood education (or another degree that includes at least 24 credits in the field). That timeline was unrealistic for staff members who would need to balance work obligations with their higher education pursuits. The new deadline is December 2023, which provides more time for current workers to secure a degree or for preschool operators to make new hires. The superintendent’s office also announced a partnership with Trinity Washington University in which some coursework will take place at local child development centers — a valuable and convenient opportunity for hands-on learning.

With the right patience and care, the new regulations can help ensure D.C. families have access to an excellent preschool experience. We’re optimistic that the District is on the right track with its relaxed timeline, and we hope education officials can work with preschool operators and teachers to meet shared goals for affordable, high-quality service.