NIEER, UC Berkeley Partner on Research into State, City Progress on Compensation Parity for Pre-K Teachers

For more information, contact: Jacqueline Sullivan, (510) 604-2289

New Brunswick, NJ – The National Institute for Early Education Research is proud to partner with the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley on release of a new report revealing how states and cities are closing the gap in compensation between equally qualified pre-K teachers and kindergarten and elementary school teachers.

This report is the third in a series of materials on pre-K compensation parity, developed by NIEER and the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment. The first report, In Pursuit of Pre-K Parity: A Proposed Framework for Understanding and Advancing Policy and Practice, developed a framework for understanding pre-K teacher compensation parity and forms of compensation improvement. The second report, Teacher Compensation Parity Policies and State Funded Pre-K Programs  by NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett Ph.D., and Research Project Coordinator Richard Kasmin, compared teacher compensation in state-funded pre-K programs, based on data collected for the 2015 State of Preschool Yearbook.

NIEER’s analysis, focused on teachers in public pre-K programs serving about 1.8 million children, showed public pre-K programs in 24 states–more than half of the 44 states funding pre-K–have no compensation parity policies for teachers. Generally, pre-K teachers with a bachelor’s degree or higher can expect to earn $10,000–$13,000 less per year than colleagues teaching slightly older children, even if they work in the same building. Download the report

This new report indicates states and cities across the country are moving to improve pre-K teacher compensation as recruiting and retaining skilled educators is critical to delivering the high-quality learning environment these programs promise. Strategies in Pursuit of Pre-K Teacher Compensation Parity: Lessons from Seven States and Cities looks at policies in Alabama, Georgia, New Jersey, Oregon, West Virginia, New York City, and San Antonio where a variety of strategies have successfully been implemented to get closer to or surpass equal pay and benefits for pre-K and teachers of older children.

This report should be an important guide, Mr. Kasmin said. “Compensation parity is a critical goal in the pursuit of a well-qualified, stable prekindergarten workforce, especially given the low wages and high demands pre-K teachers face.”

The states and cities analyzed in the report highlight successful movement toward equivalent teacher compensation in a variety of contexts and provide several key questions for decision makers to consider for their communities:

  • Which members of the early childhood workforce will be targeted by the policy effort?
  • What benchmark should be used to identify the level of compensation improvement?
  • How will “equivalent” be defined for the purposes of education, experience, and working hours?
  • Should compensation parity be pursued incrementally or initiated all at once?

Interviews with pre-K administrators suggested several unexpected benefits of the policies put in place to improve compensation and benefits for pre-K teachers:

  • In Alabama, there was increased interest on the part of kindergarten teachers in working in pre-K classrooms.
  • In Georgia and New York, the debate about improved compensation for pre-k teachers spurred discussion about improved compensation for the early childhood workforce more generally, including infant-toddler teachers.

“Many of the challenges raised by pre-K teacher compensation policies reflect wider problems caused by an early care and education system that is currently segmented by age of child and funding stream,” said Dr. Marcy Whitebook, co-author of the report and director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

“Differences in how programs are funded perpetuate a sharp divide between ‘education’ and ‘care’ services, hampering efforts to reduce inequities in working conditions for early childhood educators,” according to Whitebook.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) conducts academic research to inform policy supporting high-quality, early education for all young children. Such education promotes the physical, cognitive and social development needed for children to succeed in school and later life. NIEER provides independent, research-based analysis and technical assistance to policymakers, journalists, researchers, and educators.

The Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) conducts research and policy analysis focused on achieving comprehensive public investments which enable and reward the early childhood workforce to deliver high quality care and education for all children.
For more information, contact:

Marcy Whitebook,
 Director, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, UC Berkeley,, (510) 643-7091 (office), (510) 877-0919 (cell)


Caitlin McLean, Workforce Research Specialist, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, UC Berkeley,, (510) 642-1994