Pay Inequity for Child Care Providers

One of the topics that comes up in my community college classes is about pay inequity for child care providers.

This photo is from a presentation I heard at the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children​ Fall Conference in October 2018. It shows a glaringly low wage for a woman child care worker with at least a Bachelor’s degree. We know that $12.02 is not a livable wage. The sad truth of the matter is that many child care providers must depend on state assistance in order to stay in the early childhood field.

My community college students often enroll in my courses in order to advance on the career ladder and move from being an “Assistant” into a “Lead Teacher” position. Moving into a Lead Teacher role pays more but the 21 credit hours required for this designation requires them to invest their own money. A few of my students are employed by a public school which often covers the cost of two courses a year. However, the majority of my students are either self employed with an in-home child care or work for a child care center. The margins for these business is narrow and very few have funds to pay tuition for their staff.

Most of my students have goals to first complete the 21 hour credits, and then continue their education to earn an associates. After we examine different career roles and pay rates nearly all agree that earning a Bachelor’s degree is the only financially viable option. Most lament at the snails pace that gaining these credits will take because nearly all are only able to take two courses a semester and juggle their work and life responsibilities.

Recently as a public forum in my area, several child care directors commented that as their employees attain degrees most choose to leave the child care field,. Most often to go work in a public school, so the employee can earn more money, receive health care, paid sick and personal time, have a schedule that doesn’t include swing shifts or long days, and to have the ability to call out knowing that a substitute teacher will be able to cover their duties for the day.

I don’t claim to have a solution to this. In fact, I have tried creating business plans to open a child care center and attempted to work the numbers so I could pay my staff a fair wage, but I just couldn’t get the numbers to work. When I added in myself as the director and budgeted what I was paid as public school preschool teachers the numbers REALLY didn’t work. The responsibilities of a director of a child care center is a tremendous responsibility, and most are paid well below the manager of any other business.

Families cannot afford to pay more for child care, but we cannot continue to expect that keeping wages low will retain the staff who we want watching our children.

Again, I do not know what the solution is, but I do feel like workforce development and pay equity needs to be at the forefront of our Early Childhood Education discussions both at a state and national level.

Regionally in Vermont we have our Building Bright Future councils where these issues have been talked about for at least the last decade. Statewide in Vermont we have our Let’s Grow Kids movement. There are think tanks, ongoing round table discussions, and regional teams all thinking about this issue. It’s an encouraging and hopeful time for the field of early childhood. With my community college students I am straightforward about the issue of pay inequity, and how even by attaining a Bachelor’s degree their earning potential is lower than most any other field.

Simply put, child care staff deserve to be paid more. 

Children deserve to be in programs without huge staff turnovers, and it’s up to us to start figuring out some solutions.

Thank you to all of you who continue in this field despite the pay, but in addition to our thanks and praise, we need to take action in order to come up with solutions.

#powertotheproffession #Askingwhatif #ECE #NAEYC


Further reading:

Video explaining the Salary Disparities in NYC’s Early Childhood Workforce

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