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With low pay, finding qualified early childhood teachers remains a challenge in some areas

December 1, 2017
Priska Neely

Selma Sanchez spent the summer in a hiring frenzy. She’s the program director of the Child Development Consortium of Los Angeles, and at one of the preschool sites, almost all of the jobs needed to be filled.

“In July we lost our director,” Sanchez said. “June and July – we lost three teachers.” Most of the staff went to work at a Head Start center that’s opened nearby. That federally-funded preschool program pays slightly better than the $20 per hour she can offer at her state-subsidized program.

“I’ve been interviewing like crazy,” said Sanchez. “We can’t compete with salaries.”

She can’t find candidates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees who will settle for that rate. One of the last teachers Sanchez hired had never taken a child development class.

“She had like over five years of experience, but no education, and that’s who we hired,” she said. “That’s all I could get.”

High turnover rates are familiar territory for early education providers and finding qualified candidates is often a challenges. Wages and benefits for child care workers are among the lowest of any profession in the country and many preschool teachers don’t earn a living wage. Nearly half of child care workers and a third of preschool and kindergarten teachers are using some form of federal income support.