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High quality education starts with a worthy wage in early childhood

Early childhood educators are left behind making nearly half that of school teachers
Early childhood educators are left behind making nearly half that of school teachers
Courtesy:National Association of the Education of Young Children

Across America on May 1, 2014 early childhood activists come together to honor early childhood educators and to raise awareness of the need to attract and retain educators committed to taking care of the youngest learners. Worthy Wage Day brings to light the challenge of compensating early childhood teachers appropriately for the high value of their work with children. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) released the gaps in salaries on this day of action and it is saddening.

Many think it doesn’t take much schooling or skill to work with young children. After all they are just children right? Not the case at all. These children are at a critical time for creating lasting brain connections. Research shows that teachers with higher education contribute to higher quality in the classroom. To work in an early childhood program that expects quality for education for children, teachers must have a college background of at least an associates degree or higher.

In addition, children learn best in a trusting environment where limits are set and adults are consistent. When wages are low, those with the advance degrees required will move on to higher paying options. In general, turnover rates in early child care settings is high as they are seen as a stepping stone for higher paying careers.

In American over 2 million teachers are responsible for the care and education of our youngest children. As with the school systems, the learning expectations and pressures are being felt in the early years as well. Early childhood teachers have higher demands and expectations to create kindergarteners ready to take on the world. Yet early childhood teachers are among the lowest paid, especially those in community based programs serving the neediest of the needy children.

On average in 2012 kindergarten teachers earned almost $55,000 whereas their early childhood counterparts were bringing home just about half that much. NAEYC calls for investing in early childhood while raising the bar of professional development needs to happen for children to continue to receive high quality educational opportunities.