Read our latest white paper: “Results from a Survey of DC’s Early Childhood Education Workforce”


Despite the high costs to families, the business model for childcare providers is not lucrative. The costs for maintaining the space, programming, and staff often exceed monthly revenues. Most providers are forced to manage these circumstances by compensating staff with low wages. In the District, an early educator can expect to make around $26,900 per year.

In order to learn more about the area’s workforce, and better inform policy decisions to improve supports and compensation, DC Appleseed surveyed early care and education (ECE) professionals in all eight wards of the District. Educators were asked about their demographics, experience working in ECE, challenges, qualifications, and existing supports for their professional goals.

The survey results and accompanying recommendations are now online. Read our work “White Paper: Results from a Survey of DC’s Early Childhood Education Workforce” here.

Some of our stand-out findings from our survey respondents – both expected and unexpected – include:

  • The District’s ECE workforce is comprised mostly of women (91.6%), the majority of whom are Black (including 54% African American; and 6% African/Caribbean). The preponderance of women of color in DC’s workforce means that the way we addresses the challenges facing this workforce has implications for gender and racial equity in the community.
  • While most of the educators surveyed had attended at least some college, a large proportion of the sample did not have the credentials necessary to meet the District’s new licensing rules, which will require Lead Teachers to hold an associate degree and center directors to hold bachelor’s degrees by 2020. For example, 46.8% of Lead Teachers of infants and toddlers would need to complete additional schooling.
  • Economic anxieties loom large among DC’s early educators: nearly 80% of our sample regularly worried about their ability to pay their monthly bills.
  • More than one-fifth (21%) of ECE professionals worked an additional job at least seasonally to supplement their earnings.
  • Despite these challenges, results from our survey suggested a commitment to the field. About 80% of both teachers and directors surveyed indicated that they intended to stay in the field for at least three more years.

In the process of conducting the survey, we found that connecting with the District’s early educators was difficult. These challenges underscore the need for the District to better compile data on the ECE workforce, including contact information. Despite the challenges with outreach, we believe our results provide an important snapshot of the ECE educators in the District.

As District policymakers continue to engage with the ongoing work to improve childcare quality, affordability and workforce support, we hope these survey findings will be useful. To further assist these efforts, our white paper includes recommendations to a) better understand the ECE workforce; b) mitigate key challenges faced by the ECE workforce; c) support professional growth and retention within the ECE workforce; and d) identify and develop resources to help programs improve compensation and support for workers.

Read the full white paper here.

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