Below, two bloggers respond to a study summarized by the New America Foundation, which details the recent gains and challenges of the early education workforce.
Najeema Holas-Huggins responds:
Early Ed Watch’s recent article on the release of a new study documenting the prevalence and history of low wages in early education provides the opportunity to view the Commonwealth’s investment in early education in the context of nationwide improvements and disappointments. “The Early Childhood Care and Education Workforce from 1990 through 2010: Changing Dynamics and Persistent Concerns” reports that currently 62% of the workforce has some college education. A 2012 Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC) analysis of teaching staff in center-based early education and family child care providers with records in the Massachusetts Professional Qualifications Registry shows that nearly three-quarters (74.7%) of the sample had some college education. Salaries in MA are higher than the national average—$26,000, reported from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics vs. $16,215 – although the cost of living in MA is significantly higher as well. Furthermore, Boston is a leader in the expansion of pre-k in public schools. Research from the Harvard Graduate School of Education shows moderate to significant gains for children in these classes, and it’s worth noting that teachers in this setting are paid substantially more than their peers in center-based and family child care. Combined with Governor Patrick’s passage of the FY14 budget that includes a significant investment in early education, MA residents have a lot to be proud of. Early education has an ardent and devoted group of advocates from all walks of life, including higher education, businesses, professional associations, community groups, and parents. They all deserve a round of applause for championing the issue of early education over the past few years.
“A single mother with one young child needs nearly $51,384 to live in MA without government assistance, according to Crittenton Women’s Union. Early educator salaries fall dreadfully short of that number.”
While much has been achieved, there is certainly room for improvement in the existing system, particularly around support for the workforce. A single mother with one young child needs nearly $51,384 to live in MA without government assistance, according to Crittenton Women’s Union . Early educator salaries fall dreadfully short of that number. Another rate reserve increase, with funds earmarked for salaries in the next fiscal year would be helpful. The state’s push for early educators to obtain college degrees is also commendable, but many center administrators lament their inability to offer substantial pay increases when their staff earn degrees. Support from the state in the form of increased funding for the MA Early Childhood Educators Scholarship Fund would be a great first step.
Teddy Kokoros responds:
A recent study and a subsequent article posted on The New America Foundations Early Ed Watch blog found small improvements in both the educational attainment and pay of people in the Early Education workforce. I have been in the Early Childhood Education field for over 10 years now and my anecdotal evidence along with what I hear from colleagues in the field mirrors those trends. There is a sense that incremental improvements have been made in terms of salaries and education levels of teachers which have resulted in improvements in the quality of teaching and children’s outcomes. Unfortunately, the advancement in both teacher training and pay continues to move along at a snail’s pace and has a long way to go to meet Obama’s goals of a well-educated and trained workforce that can provide quality early education access for all. Part of the reason for this is that for many entering the field, Early Education is looked at as a temporary stepping stone and not a career.
“…Early Education is looked at as a temporary stepping stone and not a career.”
In the past five years, whenever a teacher assistant position has opened we have had a flood of candidates who are more than qualified apply for the position. Most of the candidates had Bachelor’s Degrees and some even had Master’s degrees. This is surprising because assistant preschool teacher positions pay hovers around $30,000; but not as shocking when one remembers the scarcity of jobs during the recession. However, in the interview process a persistent theme emerged. The people applying for the position did not intend to stay in the Early Education field. Most had long term goals of becoming an Elementary School Teacher, Occupational Therapist, or some other job related to helping children that has the potential to eventually make a living wage. I have even heard some early educators talk about the goal of eventually getting a “real” teaching job.
All of us in the early education field or anyone who cares about children’s development should be concerned with the stubborn belief that an early educator is a less important cog in our educational system than a K-12 educator. We must use the economic and scientific evidence to change the public and policy-makers’ perceptions about early education and advocate for higher pay. Unless the early education field gets the societal respect and equivalent pay of teachers in the K-12 ages groups, we may never be able to recruit and keep a highly educated and well trained early education workforce.
Najeema Holas-Huggins is the Manager of Marketing and Associate Researcher for the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC). In this role, she’s worked for nearly four years to increase the visibility for BTWIC and its work and impact on children, families, and the early education field in Massachusetts through traditional marketing activities, social media, and donor cultivation. She has also co-authored multiple research reports, including BTWIC’s 2010 “Blueprint for Early Education Compensation Reform.”
Teddy Kokoros has worked for over 8 years as a Pre-K Teacher at the non-profit Transportation Children Center in Boston. he also works as an adjunct professor in the Early Childhood Education Departments of Fisher College and Bay State College. He got his Master’s in Education from The Harvard Graduate School of Education with a concentration in Language and Literacy, a Bachelor’s degree from UMass Boston in Sociology, and an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Bay State College. You most likely will find him biking along the Charles River or talking about the Red Sox.