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If only we appreciated early educators enough to pay them worthy wages


May 6, 2016
Economics and FinanceGovernance and AccountabilityState & LocalWorkforce
Marcy Whitebook & Lea J.E. Austin
The Huffington Post [Op-Ed]

Early educators are quite literally shaping the future – our children’s future, our families’ future, and the future of our economy—and they’re a key part of our nation’s teaching workforce. Indeed, the National Academies of Sciences asserts that working with children under five requires as complex knowledge and skills as teaching older children. Yet our nation’s early educators are often struggling to feed their own families due to stagnant, unlivable wages. Many child care workers earn only the minimum wage. The median wage for all child care workers didn’t reach $15.00 per hour in a single state. Not surprisingly, early educators report high levels of economic worry. A study in one state found that nearly 50 percent of teachers reported worrying about having enough food for their families, including many teachers who had a college degree. According to the most recent, comprehensive national study, the median wage for an early educator with a bachelor’s degree or higher working in center-based programs was just $13.50 per hour.

Nearly one half of those employed as child care workers live in families relying on at least one federal income support, such as food stamps, to augment their low wages and meet their families’ needs — this is double the national average for workers in the U.S. Reliance on these supports is highest among those with children under five.