We stand up for a Massachusetts where everyone gets a fair shot, does and pays their fair share, and plays by the same rules.
Providing a high-quality early education is one our most powerful tools to address the achievement gap and make sure that every child gets a fair shot. The most important element in offering a quality early education are the teachers and care workers.
But with a 30% staff turnover rate, the crisis in the early education workforce undermines progress. Why such a high-turnover rate? The salaries of childcare workers are “among the lowest of any major occupation.”
If the early education system cannot hold onto skilled and passionate instructors, how can we expect to give our children the quality education they deserve?
We must stabilize the workforce, which is why Massachusetts Fair Share is backing funding the Early Education and Rate Reserve Amendment to the 2017 Massachusetts state budget.
Research reveals alarming pay discrepancies
New data regarding wages for child care and preschool teachers reveal an unfortunate reality. A recent White House report demonstrates a critical pay discrepancy among educators. As evidenced in the graph below, the average combined salary of child care, preschool, and head start teachers in Massachusetts is less than half that of kindergarten teachers.
The study show that “preschool teachers are paid less than mail order clerks, tree trimmers, and pest control workers. Child care workers make less than hairdressers and janitors.”
The problem only deepens when considering these are earnings for a profession that typically requires a bachelor’s degree. Those that are recent college graduates are not likely to permanently settle for work in which they would “earn nearly half the average earnings of individuals with a Bachelor’s degree overall”, thus explaining the high turnover rate. Even more concerning is the fact that “37% of [early educators] are reliant on some form of public assistance to support their families” and many are unable to afford child care for their own children. These facts and findings are unacceptable and unsustainable. If the state aims to expand and improve early education, we have to stabilize the workforce.
Voices from the Field
“Voices from the Field” is a series by the Eye on Early Education blog, highlighting the real stories of early educators in Massachusetts.
Erin Vickstrom of the Quinsigamond Community College Children’s School asserts that, “By supporting children and families, the groundwork is laid to help children grow and develop through the rest of their lives,” highlighting the importance of her job. Teachers also express frustration that the work they love cannot support them financially.
Lisa Crowley, a preschool teacher for the homeless, writes, “Being an early childhood educator is very demanding work…. It becomes even more demanding because most educators in this field are single parents who are still in school and paying off student loans at a very slow pace because our salaries don’t stretch far enough to pay them off more quickly.” Furthermore, Education coach Susan Norquist believes that in order to achieve a higher quality of learning, not only do qualifications need to be raised, but also that teachers must be “paid salaries that match their training and skills.” These stories reveal the pervasive impacts low wages have on those dedicating their energy to our children.
News of the budget gap cutting a $750 million hole in next year’s funding endangers hope for progress on this front. We must vehemently express our support for the House’s proposed allocation of $10 million towards the rate reserve. As Ms. Vickstrom states, “Children deserve high-quality early childhood programs, and high-quality programs are run by high-quality leaders.”
By Chloe Sasson