June 12, 2018 (BOSTON) — Earlier this year, Congress made a historic investment in early education and child care by doubling the federal investment in the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). This funding is provided to each state to provide child care and preschool slots, subsidies for low- and middle-income families, and investments in early educators and their professional development. By the end of August 2018, all states are required to submit a proposal to the federal government outlining their plan for how they intend to spend their increased funds. Throughout the spring, Jumpstart has engaged with state agencies across the country to advocate for deep investments in the early childhood education workforce and the quality of early learning programs. Jumpstart recommended that states:
1. Use funds to increase early educator wages so that early childhood providers can recruit and retain highly qualified early educators, creating pay parity among early educators, including salary, salary increases, and benefits.
Despite the fact that research consistently points to early childhood as a critical time for cognitive and social-emotional development, early educators are woefully underpaid. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2015, the national median annual wage for preschool teachers was $28,570, just 55% of the national median annual wage for kindergarten teachers: $51,640. Due primarily to these depressed pay rates, the turnover rate for early educators nationwide is over 30%, which disrupts children’s long-term growth and comfort in the classroom.
2. Use funds to expand affordable, high-quality professional development, particularly in the fields of literacy, curriculum development, culturally responsive teaching, and developmentally appropriate education.
All early educators, regardless of their level of education, need access to regular, evidence-based professional development opportunities to continue to hone their skills and learn new practices that reflect current research. Professional development and credentialing opportunities must recognize the distinct development of young children and specifically prepare early educators for their work with young children. These opportunities should be affordable and accessible to all early educators, and states should explore options to use CCDBG funds to subsidize credentialing for early educators.
3. Ensure any additional preschool opportunities created through these funds are high-quality.
Jumpstart encourages states to work with its highest quality providers to expand these programs to serve additional children and share best practices statewide, so that all children receive the high-quality learning experiences they need to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.
All young children, regardless of their family background or zip code, deserve enriching, high-quality learning experiences taught by a stable workforce of well-trained educators. Jumpstart encourages all states to use this opportunity to invest in the quality of their early education programs by investing in the individuals caring for and teaching our youngest learners.