Let’s Talk…Worthy Wage
I say it is time for a change – and I’m not just talking dirty diapers here – to pay early childhood professionals a livable wage! Iowa State University Extension and Outreach recently published a document titled Who Cares for Iowa’s Children? Based on the last workforce survey in 2009, the average wage of teachers and caregivers in child care fell below the federal poverty guidelines for a family of four.
Do the wages early childhood professionals receive really affect the quality of child care? Absolutely, they do! Low pay and poor benefits make it constantly harder for programs to recruit and retain qualified, well-trained teachers, and they fuel high teacher turnover. Researchers in child development have long identified the presence of consistent, nurturing caregivers as one of young children’s primary needs, and studies show that children in centers with high turnover and undertrained staff are less competent in language and social development. Infants and toddlers in particular suffer when their teachers lack specialized early childhood training, and this age group is the most sensitive to constant changes in caregiving staff.
Yet, if you are a program administrator you know the problem all too well. You want quality staff that stay with the program for a while, but your costs to operate your program keep rising. You know parents pay a significant percentage of their income for child care, and you wonder how they can pay more. Early childhood programs accepting financial assistance for families with low incomes know that these fees often fall well below what is needed to operate a high quality program. So what can we do in our efforts to raise awareness and brainstorm ideas to make sure all early childhood professionals working in centers, homes, and schools are earning wages and receiving benefits that will allow them to know they are valued?
May 1 is recognized in many areas as Worthy Wage Day. The website lists activity ideas, a toolkit, and resources for sharing information. There are even stickers you can print off to distribute. I believe we have a duty to help educate parents and our community about the true cost of operating a quality early childhood program. It’s time for a change! Who is with me?
We hope you will share with us! Has the salary you earn as an early childhood professional been a struggle for you to make ends meet? Have you ever shared with others like parents or legislatures your ideas for improving the system? What ideas do you have? To respond, go to http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/childcare/wage/