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Preschool Teachers Paid Much Less Than Kindergarten Counterparts

June 16, 2016
Economics and Finance
Brenda Flanagan

As teacher Raquel Lima leads her excited 4-year-olds in a counting song she knows she’s lucky because Clifton’s part of a special, federally-funded preschool program. That means Lima earns a salary that’s comparable to other teachers in Clifton’s public schools. Most pre-K teachers earn less. A lot less.

“I have been there. My first job out of college was at a daycare, making $6 an hour. You can’t live on that. You can’t have a family of four on that,” she said.

Federal labor statistics show a big pay gap. Nationally preschool teachers earn a median salary of $28,570 a year — that’s just 55 percent of the $51,640 earned by kindergarten teachers. While higher overall, Jersey’s median salaries show a similar gap: $35,160 for preschool teachers compared to $61,350 for kindergarten teachers. And it makes a difference, according to U.S. Education Secretary John King.

“Because of these salary differentials, you see lots of turnover in childcare facilities and preschool. If folks can’t support themselves and their families, they simply can’t afford to stay. And that means you don’t have the benefit of the experience those teachers have gained, because they’re leaving those early learning settings,” King said.