The Play-Date Police
WSJ November 17, 2018
D.C. regulators give new meaning to the ‘nanny state.’
By the Editorial Board | 352 words
Conservatives often criticize the “nanny state,” but even we didn’t imagine it would get this bad. The District of Columbia is literally targeting preschool play dates, claiming that parents need city approval before they can baby-sit their friends’ toddlers.
Since the 1970s, parents have organized play dates at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on East Capitol Street. They formed a nonprofit to pay for the rent, insurance, snacks and Play-Doh, and each family chips in about $200 a year to cover expenses. But like many similar co-ops in D.C., the Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School has no employees. Parent volunteers trade off child-care duties.
The fun and games ended Sept. 7 when gumshoes from the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education showed up. They claimed the Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School counts as a day care center and is operating unlawfully. If the bureaucrats get their way, the co-op would have to hire a director with a background in childhood education or development, apply and pay for a license, obtain permits and abide by all other day-care regulations.
D.C.’s Child Development Facilities Regulation Act explicitly exempts “informal parent-supervised neighborhood play groups” from day-care rules. But the day-care police claim the Capitol Hill Cooperative Play School is “formal” because it has a website, draws participants from a hat to limit play-date sizes, and hosts scheduled get-togethers. In other words, the parents aren’t organized enough for the government’s satisfaction but are too organized to escape its harassment.
The co-op received a respite last month, when the D.C. City Council passed emergency legislation allowing it and similar parent-run co-ops to continue operating. But that measure expires on Jan. 21, and State Superintendent of Education Hanseul Kang is pushing for more government control over the play dates. She wants mandatory emergency drills, sign-out sheets, CPR and first-aid certification for parent volunteers, limits on the frequency and number of hours co-ops can meet, among other requirements.
Nannying the nannies will make life tougher on parents—who have a greater interest than the D.C. government does in ensuring their kids are in good hands. ■