New Federal Report Documents the Very Low Wages of the Largely Female Preschool Workforce

HHS RportPrior research has shown that preschool and other early education programs give children an advantage when they enter K-12 education that translates into educational and career success later in life. But the effectiveness of these early education programs is compromised by a preschool workforce that is undervalued and underpaid, according to new report from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report finds that in many areas preschool educators are paid less than laborers and other unskilled workers. In some cases, preschool teachers are paid at such low rates that they qualify for public assistance programs. According to the report, preschool teachers earn annual wages that average about $28,500. This is only 55 percent of the average wage of kindergarten teachers. Why is this of particular significance to readers of WIAReport? Because 97 percent of all early childhood educators are women.

Linda SmithLinda K. Smith, deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development at the Department of Health and Human Services, notes that “the quality of any early care and learning setting is directly related to the quality of the staff, their education and training and understanding of child development and the ability to translate that understanding through effective practice. Wage parity across settings is critical to attracting and retaining a high-quality workforce, essential for a high-quality program.”

John B. King Jr., U.S. Secretary of Education, adds that “undervaluing the nation’s early childhood educators flies in the face of what we know about brain development and the optimal time for learning. Educating children before kindergarten requires significant knowledge, expertise, and skill—especially in light of the critical importance of the early years for children’s growth, development, and future academic and life success.”

The full report, High-Quality Early Learning Settings Depend on a High-Quality Workforce: Low Compensation Undermines Quality, may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study

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