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Expectations Increase, Pay Does Not for Severely Underpaid Early Education Workers

Expectations Increase, Pay Does Not for Severely Underpaid Early Education Workers

A new report released by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services revealed that while expectations for early education workers have increased, pay has not.

In fact, early education workers (who are 97 percent women, a profound statistic) are some of the lowest paid workers in the country despite having an increasingly relied on position.

Though research supports the importance of quality early education programs for developing future successful individuals, the report concludes that “low compensation undermines quality.”

“Low wages undermine [early education workers’ ] ability to provide for their own families, as well as their ability to provide children with the high-quality early learning experiences they need to excel in school and in life,” the report says.

"Despite research recognizing the importance of high-quality early education to healthy child development, and research that indicates that high- quality providers and educators are the single most important factors in these early experiences, too many individuals within the early learning workforce earn low wages – sometimes at or near the Federal poverty line – even when they obtain credentials and higher levels of education.”

The report found that even though more and more preschool teachers are getting Bachelor degrees, pay has not increased to match the increased educational attainment.

When comparing preschool teachers’ earnings to kindergarten and elementary school teachers’ wages, the contrast was found to be stark.

"In 2015, the median annual wage for preschool teachers at $28,570 was 55 percent of the wages earned by Kindergarten teachers ($51,640) and 52 percent of elementary school teachers ($54,890),” the report said.

The annual median wage for child care workers in general was found to be $20,320

The report highlights some instances of progress towards wage parity, including efforts made by the District of Columbia, New Jersey and the federal government under the Obama administration.

Specifically, the report highlights the proposed Preschool for All "which would be used to improve outcomes for children by expanding the number and availability of high-quality, inclusive preschool programs for children from low to moderate income families. Key among the requirements of the proposal is that preschool teachers would be paid a comparable salary to their K-12 counterparts.”

Read the full report.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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