Earlier this year, the NY Times discussed the critical impact of early childhood education, in a provocative article entitled “Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?” Not only are the outcomes notable but it can “level the playing field for low income black and Hispanic children”. As a Head Start program in the Urban Core and the convener of a unique partnership for infant toddler programs across the state, this is a priority to us.
But as the author points out, the Economic Policy Institute explains that the “majority of preschool teachers are low income women with no more than a high school diploma”. Something about this picture seems wrong.
We are asking people to live in poverty while trying to “ameliorate” poverty. We are asking people to do one of the most impactful piece of work with young children and we have yet to address their wages, access to higher education and often ask them to relay on state and federally subsidized benefits. The wages cannot be addressed without the child care subsidy being addressed.
Representative Diaz and Senator Crowley, as co-chairs of the Permanent Legislative Commission on Child Care, understand that something needs to change. We applaud their collective effort on tiered reimbursement as well as their grasp of the need for change. We know that a thriving economy requires that we invest in the support structures that enable parents to go to work, while knowing that their children are being safely cared for and educated in high quality child care and early learning programs.
In order to change the wages for early childhood staff, we need to change the way in which the childcare subsidy is reimbursed.