Tucked inside the 2,468-page spending bill (pdf) unveiled this week is a provision that says minimum standards for preschool teachers would require lead teachers to “a baccalaureate degree in early childhood education or a related field by not later than 7 years after the date of enactment of this Act.”
Over 20 states already require preschool teachers to have a degree. Supporters of the requirement argue that early learning is so fundamental that educators should have adequate knowledge about child brain development, mathematics, and other subjects.
“Young children are natural scientists and innovators who test ideas and evaluate results,” Anne Douglass, an associate professor of Early Childhood Education and Care at the University of Massachusetts Boston, wrote in a 2018 op-ed. “It requires skill, experience and knowledge to structure learning experiences and ask questions that guide the development of children’s creative problem solving and conceptual thinking.”
Others, though, assert there’s no need for such a requirement.
“The literature is clear that there is no relationship between teacher certification and student outcomes, a reality that will certainly hold in the preschool sphere,” Lindsey Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, told The Epoch Times via email. “The only beneficiaries will be colleges of education, which will enjoy a new influx of individuals who now need bachelor’s degrees to teach preschool.”
States and other jurisdictions where the requirement has been imposed have not seen tangible positive effects, she argued, adding that the possible and proven negative impacts include saddling preschool teachers with student loan debt, making it harder for people to become preschool teachers, and driving up the cost of preschool by making hiring more expensive.
The bill is expected to be taken up by the House of Representatives in the coming days. It would exclude from the degree requirement teachers who “were employed by an eligible child care provider or early education program for a cumulative three of the last five years from the date of enactment and have the necessary content knowledge and teaching skills for early childhood educators, as demonstrated through measures determined by the state.”