- Over the past two years, median wages for educators working in the early-childhood field have increased by 7%, but those working in child-care and preschool programs still earn a fraction of what kindergarten and elementary teachers make, according to the Early Childhood Workforce Index 2018, released by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.
- Preschool teachers working in schools come the closest to earning what kindergarten teachers do — an average of $26.88 per hour compared to $31.29 per hour. But those working with infants and toddlers, even if they have a bachelor’s degree, still make more than $4 less than those teaching in a pre-K class.
- The authors include several recommendations focusing on areas, such as providing early educators with access to and support in obtaining degrees when states increase educational requirements, setting short- and long-term goals for increasing wages, and strengthening workforce data. “The case for changing how our nation invests in education and values its teachers is incontrovertible as a matter of justice to the entire teaching workforce, their own families, and the children of the families they serve,” they write.
Education experts and researchers have long looked at the period of early-childhood as stretching from birth to age eight, but the index reinforces the division that continues to exist between the K-12 system and those working in both home- and center-based early-childhood programs. The report notes that those in the early-childhood field often don’t earn pay and benefits that are sufficient to allow them to provide for their families, which further contributes to staff turnover. But it also points to states’ recent actions to support lower-wage employees, through policies such as tax credits and paid family leave, as efforts that benefit the early-childhood workforce.
While the National Association for the Education of Young Children is leading an effort to define the qualifications of an early-childhood professional, the index stresses that much of that conversation ignores “the need to transform early childhood jobs and finance the wider [early childhood education] system in which early educators practice in order to improve access and quality.”
School district leaders can be strong advocates for higher wages and more employee benefits for those working in the early-childhood field because they recognize that higher-quality child care and preschool programs contribute to later success in school.