Improving Job Quality for the Early Education Workforce: Opportunities for States

Preschool Programs

Across the country and right here in the DC, early childhood educators are consistently some of the lowest paid workers. Most make only slightly more than cashiers and dishwashers, and about half of early educators nationwide enroll in some form of public assistance to support themselves and their families. Here in the District, the average early educator can expect to bring home just under $30,000 a year—far less than the area’s average salary.

Despite the critical role these teachers play in ensuring the healthy development of children, much of the workforce remains vulnerable to economic insecurity. But such insecurity is not inevitable—there are plenty of policy options available to states seeking to support the early care and education (ECE) workforce.

In our latest brief with the Working Poor Families Project, we outline steps states can take to improve the working conditions of ECE administrators and educators. As we note in the brief, these policies not only benefit the workforce and their families, but also are key in improving the overall quality of early education throughout the states.

Some of our recommendations to states include:

  • Build worker compensation increases into initiatives to raise quality: This can include building salary scales into QRIS rating criteria, and increasing reimbursement rates for ECE programs that accept childcare subsidies.
  • Support policy, practice, and funding that continues to professionalize the ECE workforce: States should work to align early education with the K-12 system by creating parity between ECE and K-12 teachers, and employing the per-student funding formula for state appropriations to early education.
  • Create early care and education career pathways with stackable, portable credentials and opportunities for educators: States should provide a clear pathway for educators to earn credentials aligned with the needs of the state’s ECE system, and that recognize educators’ experience in the classroom. Educators who earn higher degrees should receive higher compensation.
  • Invest in data collection and analysis on the early education workforce: This information should be used to promote innovative strategies to meet the needs of the children and the businesses and professionals that serve them.

For more details on how states can enhance the skills and working conditions for this critical sector of the workforce, read the policy brief “Improving Job Quality for the Early Education Workforce.”

Photo Credit: Seattle Parks. No changes made.

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