A provision in the House version of Democrats' massive infrastructure and social welfare spending bill would require preschool teachers to have a special bachelor’s degree within seven years of the passage of the bill.
The provision, which would require teachers to have a degree in early childhood education or a "related field," is attached to a portion of the bill that funds universal pre-K. Proponents of the policy say that requiring preschool teachers to have four-year degrees would increase the quality of preschool education and increase teacher pay.
At least 21 states, including Texas, New York, Georgia, and Illinois, as well as Washington, D.C., require preschool teachers to have college degrees, according to a 2018 report from education news outlet 74 Million. Florida, California, Massachusetts, and Virginia are among the states that do not require degrees.
The bill’s final language is still in flux pending an agreement between lawmakers, but conservative education policy experts criticized the proposed requirement, saying it would drive up preschool costs and substantially burden a whole swath of the workforce with an onerous qualification requirement, all while having little to no effect on the quality of preschool education.
Calling it a “regressive policy,” Max Eden, an education research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said there is “no evidence to support this will help with student outcomes.”
What it will do, he went on, is “price out a number of women from the workforce who are just trying to provide for their families.” Eden cited increased preschool costs in Washington, D.C., where preschool teachers are already required to have college degrees, as evidence of the negative effects of the policy.
Lindsey Burke, director of the center for education policy at the Heritage Foundation, called the proposal a “gift to the colleges of education, which would see an influx of individuals who would now need bachelor's degrees to be preschool teachers, even though the job requirement hasn't changed.”
“Requiring BAs for preschool teachers would dramatically increase the cost of preschool, create barriers to entry into the profession, and would not improve the quality of early education and care,” Burke said. “There is no evidence that formal education beyond a high school diploma makes someone a better caretaker. And similar bachelor's degree requirements in Washington, D.C., are part of the reason why it is now the most expensive area for infant care in the country.”
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Original Author: Jeremiah Poff