Over the summer, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed a long-running lawsuit challenging new regulations in the District of Columbia that require directors of day care centers to have bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education and teachers to have associate degrees.

The regulations, set to go into effect at the end of this year, are an example of how well-meaning but poorly thought-out government interference in business can increase cost without providing any measurable benefits, and how a liberal obsession with credentialism can cloud logical reasoning.

In the short term, the regulations will severely limit the already shallow pool of providers; in the long term, they will increase the cost of child care considerably. The effects are already noticeable. One local mother told me that her family’s move from D.C. to Virginia was directly spurred by quotes they received from area day care centers. She found that district centers were charging double the amount of the centers right over the bridge in northern Virginia. 

But this story isn’t just about government overregulation and overreach, but how parents and their unique perspective will be diminished in the halls of our legislative system. 

Working in congressional offices isn’t a profitable profession, especially considering the high cost of living in the area. Those working these jobs don’t do it for the money; the draw is the power they have in the realm of policy and politics.

The influence of those with the ability to draft legislation and influence politicians is incalculable. It’s influence that special interest groups pay for, and it’s influence that families around the country previously enjoyed by virtue of the simple fact that fellow parents were working in Congress and advocating for their own unique needs.

It’s that influence that will be affected when these new day care rules go into effect. Families around the country will suffer with fewer staff members in place who have their finger on the pulse of the needs of American parents. When parents are priced out of child care near their homes and offices, they’re forced to choose between their job and their child. 

Related
Perspective: Women are having to get creative about child care. But what happens when they can’t?
Perspective: The case for child care at work

Even writers at the left-leaning Slate are sour on the law. Timothy P. Lee complained, “As a D.C. resident and parent of three young children, these rules have never made sense to me. D.C.’s main child care challenges are high costs and limited supply, not low quality. Requiring teachers to get college degrees will only make these problems worse. Higher costs could even force some parents to take their kids out of formal child care centers in favor of home-based or unlicensed options that are likely to be of lower quality.” 

Across the board, objections and concerns are bipartisan. 

Jessica, a recent Republican staffer on Capitol Hill, called the new regulations were “absolute insanity.” She explained, “Child care is already so unaffordable in this area, which is why I left the Hill and we’re moving to the middle of the country to be closer to family.” 

Maria, a current Hill staffer, is only able to keep her job because of the combination of a part-time preschool program in Virginia and a husband able to work remotely. A mother to two small children, she told me why the couple don’t use a day care center near her office: “We couldn’t afford day care for one child let alone two, and the waiting lists for congressional day care centers are very long.”

Even before these regulations take effect, child care costs had priced many parents out of a job working in the legislative branch. Jessica told me, “I worked in two offices and there were a handful of parents in both, and all of them were senior staffers. The few parents I’ve known who weren’t taking a senior staffer salary either had to leave the Hill or the workforce entirely because of how expensive child care is in this area.” 

Parents have a long wishlist of policies they’d like to see Congress take on. For the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Patrick T. Brown just compiled a list of five pro-family action items for the 118th Congress based on polling. From tax benefits to keeping kids safe online and the creation of paid leave benefits, legislators have their work cut out for them to make America a better place to raise a family.  

In order to see any of those goals realized, parents need advocates in congressional offices. But if there’s an exodus of parents working on the Hill because they can’t afford child care, these policy changes are even further out of reach. It’s not often that onerous local regulations have the ability to do lasting damage nationwide, but these D.C. day care regulations would do just that.

Bethany Mandel, a contributing writer for Deseret, is a home-schooling, stay-at-home mother of six. She is the co-author of the forthcoming book “Stolen Youth,” coming March 7 from Daily Wire Books, and an editor for the children’s book series “Heroes of Liberty.”