The United State of Women summit yesterday was a hard act to follow, but today, NWLC was excited to participate in a follow-up convening on a topic of incredible importance: the early care and education workforce. Together with NAEYC, NHSA, and SEIU, NWLC cosponsored this convening in partnership with the White House. Advocates, early educators, academic and policy experts in the field, and agency officials came together to discuss the state of the child care and early education workforce and the policy changes that need to be made to make sure they receive the education and training, and compensation, that those who care for and teach our youngest learners need and deserve.
Cutting edge brain research has helped us understand the critical role of early educators in children’s learning and development. Research also shows, as highlighted in NWLC’s recent report, Set Up to Fail: When Low-Wage Work Jeopardizes Parents’ and Children’s Success, that low wages, unpredictable schedules, and few benefits place stress on low-wage workers, including child care providers and teachers – which can then impact the children they care for. Yet early childhood teachers continue to earn significantly lower wages than other teaching professionals, with no increase in real earnings since 1997 and limited access to professional development and training opportunities. For early childhood professionals, the resulting stress can impact the children they care for as well as their own children, for those who are also parents.
The convening today was actually a call to action to change the longstanding under-investment in those who care for our children. We heard from providers themselves, who spoke of the struggles they face to keep their families afloat and stay in the profession they are committed to. I was honored to moderate a panel featuring Dr. Marcy Whitebook, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley, Shannon Rudisill, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Steven Hicks, Senior Policy Advisor, U.S. Department of Education, whose presentations provided data about compensation for the early childhood workforce. In particular, the administration officials on the panel spoke about a new report from the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education, which found that high-quality early learning settings depend on a high-quality workforce, and that low compensation for early childhood teaching staff undermines quality. And the final panel highlighted promising practices around the country that helped early childhood professionals increase their education and training as well as their compensation.
In our panel, Shannon Rudisill urged the attendees of this convening to find policies and practices to “unstick” the current lack of investment around the early childhood workforce. And the attendees were ready to take on the challenge. We’re committed to joining with our partners to invest in the women who care for and teach our youngest learners, through increased investments in CCDBG, policies and practices that make it easier for child care professionals (and other low-wage workers, especially those who are parents) to access education and training programs, and other policies that set low-wage workers – and children – up for success.