Today is World Teachers’ Day, a time to acknowledge and thank the teachers in our classrooms for all they do to support, nurture and educate our children. Students around the world in virtual and in-person socially distanced classrooms will share their gratitude for their teachers. And early childhood teachers deserve appreciation, too, because of their importance to your family and our communities.
What they could really use this World Teachers’ Day is better pay and benefits.
COVID-19 has shown our country what Child Care Services Association has always known—the child care workforce keeps our economy running. Yet, early childhood educators continue to earn low wages despite the important work they do for our children. Science shows a child’s brain develops the fastest in their earliest years, setting a foundation for all future learning, including school readiness and school success.
In North Carolina, before the pandemic, early childhood teachers earned an average of $12.00 per hour, center directors earned an average of $19.23 per hour and family child care providers earned an average of $9.09 per hour, according to the 2019 study Working in Early Care and Education in North Carolina. Additionally, the study found that 39% of teachers and 37% of assistant teachers reported receiving some type of public assistance in the past three years (e.g., Medicaid, SNAP, TANF and/or child care subsidy).
As the state and country continues to face COVID-19 effects, benefits are also important, particularly health coverage. Yet, child care centers, the largest sector in the child care market, are the least likely to offer health coverage (18%) and pay the lowest wages, and 16% of family child care providers have no health insurance from any source.
Do we expect our early childhood educators to continue earning low wages with barely any benefits as they care for and educate our children so our country can recover from this pandemic? Isn’t it time to change this? We can’t let our early childhood educators get left behind, or worse, leave the field entirely.
Currently, the North Carolina legislature is finalizing the state budget with state funds and federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars. The latest estimate for a new state budget becoming law is mid-October. Have you called your legislator? Did you know that you can contact your legislator today using the easy email and phone call templates found in the Worthy Wages Toolkit? It’s well past time our child care providers earned professional compensation and benefits.
Child care workforce compensation is a key component for economic recovery from this pandemic. It’s time for a commitment to increase child care teacher wages. It’s time we really celebrated our early childhood teachers by giving them what they rightfully deserve.