Magazine article State Legislatures

Helping Those Who Teach the Youngest

Magazine article State Legislatures

Helping Those Who Teach the Youngest

Article excerpt

Every day nearly 2 million adults are paid to care for and educate more than 12 million children from birth to 5 years of age. This workforce, made up mostly of women, includes child care workers, Head Start employees, preschool teachers and home care providers.

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Science points to these early years as critical for healthy brain development, and the vital role of childhood educators in setting kids on a path to success was stressed in a recent report by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council. Early childhood workers, the report said, need to understand the science of child development and have the skills to provide high-quality support for young children.

Yet early educators are among the lowest paid workers in the U.S. Their median hourly wages in 2015 ranged from $8 .72 in Mississippi to $12.24 in New York, with a national median of $9. 77, according to the most recent data. Nearly half of child care workers received benefits from at least one public program, such as the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

Preschool teachers make slightly more, with median hourly wages ranging from $10.54 in Idaho to $19.21 in Louisiana. Yet they' re paid much less than kindergarten teachers, whose national median hourly wage was $24.83.

With compensation a factor in teacher-retention rates--and research showing that low retention rates and inadequate teacher preparation affect the quality of care children receive--states are addressing low educator pay in a variety of ways. …

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