Covid-19 and the future of childcare regulation

In July, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) surveyed childcare providers all around the country on their fight with the coronavirus crisis. What they found was very discouraging. Among their key findings were the following;

Approximately two out of five respondents—and half of those who are minority-owned businesses—are certain that they will close permanently without additional public assistance.

Nationally, 18% of child care centers and 9% of family child care homes remain closed.

Of those who are open, 86% of respondents are serving fewer children now than they were prior to the pandemic. On average, enrollment is down by 67%.

At the same time, upwards of 70% of child care centers are incurring substantial, additional costs for staff (72%), cleaning supplies (92%), and personal protective equipment (81%).

One in four early childhood educators reported that they have applied for or received unemployment benefits, while a full 73% of programs indicated that they have or will engage in layoffs, furloughs, and/or pay cuts. For minority-owned businesses, the situation is worse; only 12% have not resorted to these measures in order to survive

How bad have providers had it?

I have written before about the plight of childcare providers during the crisis; most saw their enrollment go down while their costs increased. This worsened profitability issues and other issues that existed prior to the pandemic. Surveys do help give an insight into how bad some of them have had it. As reported by Time magazine:

 Lauren Brown, the director of World of Wonders Childcare and Learning Center in In Marysville, Ohio, says cleaning costs have skyrocketed 300%, while the center grossed $20,000 less in June and July than it normally would. Annette Gladstone, the co-founder of Segray Eagle Rock daycare in Los Angeles, says she’s struggling to keep up with rent on her daycare building since enrollment is so low. Segray Eagle Rock normally accommodates 177 children; by late August, it had two dozen kids. Despite the blistering Southern California heat, Gladstone has kept the windows open while the air conditioner is running because the CDC indicates the practice can increase ventilation. Meredith Kasten who runs the Early Childhood Center in Greensboro, North Carolina, says the demand for her services all but dried up. “Our waiting list used to be a year long,” she says. “It’s now empty

This has a domino effect on the economy. Closure of childcare facilities leads to a shortage of childcare and inadvertently high prices. In fact, according to the Center of American progress, Covid-19 changes have already led to high childcare prices, factoring in the increased costs for providers. In Minnesota, prices have jumped at least 33% for parents, for infant and toddler care on average.

State regulations are to blame for the worsened crisis

It is quite possible that Covid-19 on its own would have had unspeakable consequences on childcare. But there is no denying that strict regulation has played a helping hand in decimating the childcare industry. As Time illustrates

Stringent government regulations designed to safeguard child safety and development are also a factor. Most states require that day-care centers maintain high adult-to-child ratios and ample square footage. In some places, day-care operators are required to hire staff trained in early childhood development. These measures are important. Research shows that early-childhood education shapes everything from adult brain volume to reading proficiency. “That has an impact on our future labor force and their economic potential, which ultimately is tied to our country’s economic potential,” says Katica Roy, a gender economist. But these requirements also have the effect of making daycares less nimble in the face of economic crises.

The coronavirus crisis has definitely shone a light on the tyrannical nature of most regulations. And the biggest is that of childcare. A state like Minnesota, for instance, has some of the strictest standards when it comes to childcare. And current trends dictate that such a state would face even more pronounced negative effects on its childcare industry. The future of a strong childcare industry after Covid in Minnesota, therefore, lies in ensuring that the state does not go back to stringent rules that have contributed to a much worse childcare crisis during this pandemic.