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Quality early education requires quality pay for teachers

December 16, 2014
Economics and FinanceOutcomesWorkforce
Jean Stevens
RH Reality Check

Thousands of early child-care providers and educators ask themselves the same questions each day as they care for and educate nearly 12.5 million children under age five. They will soon care for millions more under two new federal initiatives set in place within the past month: a $1 billion initiative announced Wednesday to provide public and private grants to states to expand their pre-kindergarten programs, which is part of a $75 billion package calledPreschool for All to create universal pre-K education for 4-year-old children, and thereauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), a block of funds totaling $5.3 billion for early child-care centers and schools for children ages 1-to-4 nationwide. These federal initiatives will allow states to allocate more funds to further train caretakers and teachers, to improve and enforce safety and health standards, to provide new education materials, and to create more vouchers for low-income families to enroll their children in early childhood programs. But amid the cheering for these laws and the progress they represent, one critical element of quality childhood education remains noticeably absent from the conversation: funding to pay much more to teacher and caretakers, some of the lowest-paid workers in the country. Federal early child-care and education policies must require states to raise caretaker and teacher salaries, or else qualified workers will continue to struggle, earn less than they deserve for this vital work, or leave the field, while the children—at their most critical development stage—will receive lower-quality care.