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Nebraska childcare providers face low wages, other challenges

September 6, 2017
Margaret Reist
Lincoln Journal Star

Nebraska’s day care providers and early childhood educators face low wages, a lack of benefits and high stress and often aren’t sufficiently educated, according to the latest study by the University of Nebraska’s Buffett Early Childhood Institute.

Center-based providers fare the worst, making a median annual income of $18,706 — nearly $7,800 below the poverty line for a family of four — and fewer than half receive health insurance or other benefits.

Home-based providers make a median annual income of nearly $26,000, although that equates to $11 an hour because nearly 80 percent work more than 40 hours a week.

Early childhood educators — preschool teachers in school settings and those who teach kindergarten through third grade — make substantially more.

Their median incomes are $36,000 and $41,000, respectively, and their salaries increase with additional education, unlike home-based and center-based day care providers.

Nearly 20 percent of early childhood educators surveyed hold second jobs, and 27 percent of home-based providers and 20 percent of center-based providers use public assistance.

“Lack of livable wages and benefits is very, very dramatic,” said Sam Meisels, executive director of the Buffett Institute. “Making ends meet while you work in child care is very, very difficult. This is a very significant set of problems we see.”