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Low pay, outdated ideas about field hurt early childhood educators: report

July 8, 2016
Economics and FinanceGovernance and AccountabilityQuality and CurriculumState & LocalWorkforce
Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
Chicago Tribune

Nearly half of child care workers in Illinois are part of families that rely on public assistance, according to a new report that calls for long-overdue action to improve the wages of the people tasked with caring for kids in the earliest years of their lives. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley on Thursday released the first of what they expect to be a biennial state-by-state analysis assessing the workforce conditions in early childhood education. Despite growing recognition of the importance of early education in kids’ development and efforts to improve quality of care, there has been spotty progress in improving the quality of early childhood educators’ jobs, the report said.

“Poor employment conditions, not unlike those identified 50 years ago, remain the norm,” Marcy Whitebook, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley, said on a conference call with reporters. In Illinois, child care workers earned a median hourly wage of $10.50 in 2015, up 1 percent from five years before. Forty-six percent of them are in families on some sort of public assistance, including more than a quarter that are on food stamps.

Preschool teachers earned $13.79 an hour, flat from 2010. Kindergarten teachers fare significantly better, earning $23.42 an hour, up 3 percent from 2010 and close to the median elementary-school wage of $26.60. Illinois is in line with much of the nation, where hourly wages for child care workers range from $8.72 in Mississippi to $12.24 in New York. Nearly 36,000 people are in the early-childhood teaching workforce in Illinois.