Policy Brief/Analysis

Low Wages = Low Quality

Solving the Real Preschool Teacher Crisis

By W. Steven Barnett
NIEER Policy Brief (Issue 3, May 2003)


Evidence points to the low wages and benefits offered to preschool teachers as the single most important factor in hiring and keeping good teachers. In fact, preschool programs with the lowest pay have the highest turnover.

This brief looks at just how low salaries are for preschool teachers and child care workers and provides evidence of the effects of poor pay and employee benefits on teacher morale, turnover rates, and ultimately on educational quality. Current strategies designed to address the problems of poor compensation are presented, as are policy recommendations to help promote the compensation increases necessary to ensure high-quality preschool programs for our children.

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The Authors

W. Steven (Steve) Barnett is a Board of Governors Professor and the founder and Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University. Dr. Barnett’s work primarily focuses on public policies regarding early childhood education, child care, and child development.