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The Crisis Facing America’s Preschool Teachers

October 27, 2017
Mary Alice McCarthy
The Atlantic

Efforts to fill centers with better qualified early-childhood workers are threatening the jobs of those who can’t afford to get their college degree, and some states are turning to apprenticeships to solve both problems at once.

The early-education field is in a difficult period of transition. Grounded in solid evidence that early learning can help reduce educational achievement gaps among children and generate a host of other lasting positive effects, the field is still struggling to distinguish itself from traditional childcare. Early education is arguably the most effective part of the educational system for mitigating the toxic effects of poverty, but it is also receives much less funding than other levels of schooling. While advocates seek to position early education as a natural extension of the K-12 school system, it is still delivered primarily through private childcare centers and paid for by parents who can afford it. The public funding that is available exists primarily through Head Start and block grants and is distributed as vouchers to low-income families; states are increasingly funding early education, too. But waiting lists are often long and demand far outstrips supply.