D.C. ex­tends schol­ar­ships and op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­flu­en­tial child-care work­ers

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBIT­U­AR­IES - Michael.chan­dler@wash­post.com

de­vel­op­ing rapidly — re­quires train­ing sim­i­lar to what el­e­men­tary school teach­ers re­ceive.

New li­cens­ing reg­u­la­tions that went into ef­fect in De­cem­ber call for teach­ers of in­fants and tod­dlers to have an As­so­ci­ate de­gree by De­cem­ber 2020.

The reg­u­la­tions also re­quire child-care cen­ter direc­tors to earn a bach­e­lor’s de­gree and home care providers and as­sis­tant teach­ers to earn a CDA.

These min­i­mum cre­den­tials are stok­ing anx­i­ety among child­care work­ers who say they lack time and re­sources to go back to school. Some Span­ish-speak­ing providers say they will have to spend ex­tra years learn­ing English be­fore they can even en­roll in col­lege-level cour­ses.

Many busi­ness own­ers are also con­cerned they can­not af­ford to re­ward bet­ter-ed­u­cated teach­ers: The un­der-re­sourced sys­tem is al­ready strained with some of the high­est av­er­age tu­ition in the coun­try, at $1,800 a month, al­low­ing lit­tle room for in­creases to pay teach­ers more. At the same time, gov­ern­ment vouch­ers for low-in­come fam­i­lies do not fully re­im­burse for the ac­tual cost of qual­ity care, providers say.

Kang said of­fi­cials are lis­ten­ing. “We be­lieve it’s ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal to sup­port our child-care work­force,” she said.

The city re­cently launched an on­line plat­form called Quo­rum where child-care work­ers can com­plete their CDA course work free. It added new fund­ing for schol­ar­ships to help child-care work­ers pur­sue col­lege de­grees, in­creas­ing the sum from $916,840 to $1.5 mil­lion.

The cur­rent year’s bud­get added $4.5 mil­lion to in­crease the value of child-care vouch­ers.

City of­fi­cials are also talk­ing with uni­ver­si­ties about the pos­si­bil­ity of of­fer­ing a de­gree pro­gram in Span­ish, Kang said. The law in­cludes a waiver pro­vi­sion for peo­ple who have taught in a li­censed child de­vel­op­ment cen­ter for at least 10 years.

Martha C. Egas, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at the Span­ish Ed­u­ca­tion De­vel­op­ment (SED) Cen­ter in Pet­worth, said it’s chal­leng­ing to meet the new ed­u­ca­tion stan­dards, but worth­while. “It’s a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for work­ers to im­prove their skills and take ad­van­tage of what the city is of­fer­ing at the mo­ment.”

The First Step pro­gram, which just grad­u­ated its first seven stu­dents in June, aims to in­crease the skill level and ed­u­ca­tion of work­ers now en­ter­ing the field. It is pro­jected to ex­pand into new schools and en­roll 150 stu­dents over the next three years.

To earn a CDA, stu­dents must take 120 hours of course work in child de­vel­op­ment and spend 480 hours work­ing with chil­dren. To help stu­dents earn their hours, the city is pay­ing them to work in li­censed child-care cen­ters through its Sum­mer Youth Em­ploy­ment Pro­gram.

“I knew I wanted to work with chil­dren. So when I heard about this pro­gram, I said, ‘Sign me up,’ ” Stin­nie said. She is work­ing in a class for 2-year-olds this sum­mer at the SED Cen­ter be­fore en­rolling at Trin­ity Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity, where she plans to study early-child­hood ed­u­ca­tion and even­tu­ally earn a mas­ter’s de­gree. Some of her high school cred­its through the CDA pro­gram can trans­fer to her new univer­sity, and she hopes to take ad­van­tage of the Dis­trict’s schol­ar­ships for child-care work­ers.

Eben Be­na­vides, 17, an­other First Step grad­u­ate, is also work­ing at the SED Cen­ter this sum­mer. He was eat­ing lunch on a re­cent af­ter­noon at a small ta­ble of 2- and 3- year olds.

He said he en­rolled in the pro­gram be­cause he wanted to “learn how chil­dren learn.”

As a rare male in an over­whelm­ingly fe­male-dom­i­nated work­force, he says he hopes to be a role model for chil­dren. “I can let them know that there are males fig­ures they can de­pend on in their lives,” he said.

Valora Wash­ing­ton, chief ex­ec­u­tive at the Coun­cil for Pro­fes­sional Recog­ni­tion, which over­sees the CDA pro­gram na­tion­ally, said high school-level train­ing pro­grams are be­gin­ning to take root around the coun­try. The pro­grams pro­vide pro­fes­sional skills and col­lege cred­its to high school grad­u­ates, and they ben­e­fit young chil­dren who too of­ten spend for­ma­tive years in pro­grams with low-skilled work­ers.

“In many places, a per­son with no spe­cial­ized train­ing or ed­u­ca­tional back­ground can walk into an early-child­hood ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram and be­come em­ployed,” she said.

“It’s a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for work­ers to im­prove their skills and take ad­van­tage of what the city is of­fer­ing.” Martha C. Egas, Span­ish Ed­u­ca­tion De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter

PHO­TOS BY BILL O’LEARY/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

ABOVE: Chil­dren re­turn to the Span­ish Ed­u­ca­tion De­vel­op­ment (SED) Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton Thurs­day af­ter a trip out­side.

RIGHT: Ty­onna Stin­nie, left, took part in a new city­funded ca­reer and tech­ni­cal ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram called “First Step” that aims to build a pipe­line of highly trained child-care work­ers.

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