June 14, 2016
Washington D.C. – In the title of a report released today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education led with the words we have long known to be true: “High-Quality Early Learning Settings Depend on a High-Quality Workforce: Low Compensation Undermines Quality.”
As Rhian Evans Allvin, Executive Director of NAEYC notes, “The science of early brain development and the economics of early childhood education are clear and decisive. Quality matters. Excellent educators are the linchpin. The interactions and experiences they create, the classroom environments they establish, and the relationships they develop with families are what build the quality upon which positive outcomes for children rest.”
Educators and advocates know this. Policy makers and parents know this. Through its research, NAEYC has found that voters across political, geographic and demographic lines know this. They understand the evidence-based connection between having high-quality educators and having high-quality education – and they believe that compensation and professional development are critical components of ensuring quality.
And yet, the gap between what we know and what we do widens. Within its call for action, this important report lifts up some of the following findings that demonstrate how far behind our policies and practices are from the science behind early learning:
- The national median annual wage for preschool teachers is $28,570 - roughly half of what elementary school and kindergarten teachers earn in a year.
- In 60 percent of states, the median annual earnings for a child care worker is below poverty for a family of three (i.e. $20,090 according to the 2015 poverty threshold).
- For an individual with a Bachelor’s degree, there is a $6.70 per hour difference in median wages between employment in a public school sponsored program compared to a community-based program. That translates to a difference of $13,936 per year.
- Across the 42 states and the District of Columbia now operating state preschool programs, only four states require salary parity for all lead teachers across all settings: Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
We ignore these statistics - and the real children, families and educators behind them - at our peril. We commend the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education for calling attention to the gaps, and to elevating the connection between quality and compensation in early childhood education. With the recent launch of the Power to the Profession initiative, a national collaboration to define the early childhood profession by establishing a unifying framework for career pathways, knowledge and competencies, qualifications, standards and compensation, NAEYC is demonstrating our own current commitment to this work, building on our extensive history of leadership as the professional organization for early childhood educators. We invite you to join us, and to raise your powerful voice as we respond to what we know by changing what we do. It’s time to invest in early childhood educators and deliver on the promise of high-quality early childhood education.
NAEYC promotes high-quality early learning for all children, birth through age 8, by connecting practice, policy, and research. We advance a diverse, dynamic early childhood profession and support all who care for, educate, and work on behalf of young children. Learn more at www.naeyc.org.