This week, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment released its report Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Childhood Workforce 25 Years after the National Child Care Staffing Study with a live event at the New America Foundation. In 1989, the National Child Care Staffing Study brought attention to the high turnover rates and poverty-level salaries for early childhood education teachers. The new report revisits the topic of teacher wages and working conditions in light of the dramatic increase in attention to, and investment in, early childhood education in the last 25 years. Despite this focus at the local, state, and federal government levels, as well as in private industry and philanthropy, early childhood education teachers are still struggling to get by….Low salaries have real, negative impact on early childhood professionals. In 2012, almost half of childcare workers used one of four public income support programs to support their own families, compared to a quarter of the U.S. workforce. The utilization of these programs by early childhood workers (the Earned Income Tax Credit; Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) totals $2.4 billion per year
Those are my thoughts on a new blog with NIEER. As a researcher talking about a new report, my job is to focus on the data and the facts. But a large part of me can’t get over the gut response of “OMG.” It’s not news that early childhood education is a low-paying field, but to see the realities of teachers lives, and what they give up for pursuing meaningful work with big impacts, is heartbreaking. The original staffing study was published just as my parents were exploring early childhood education options for me. I can’t stomach idea that my beloved teachers from that part-day, church-based programs were statistically likely to be in a rough economic place; I certainly can’t stomach the fact that friends going into the field 25 years later are facing the same barrier.