The Time for Change is Now

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By: J. Glenn Hopkins, President/CEO

Recognizing the long term value and responding to increasing public pressure from parents of young children, legislators and government officials across the nation are talking about early care and education (ECE) and calling for improved compensation as a means to improved early care and education quality. 
 
This year, with rare bipartisan support, Congress raised federal Child Care and Development Block Grant funding to $5.8 billion – doubling the federal financial commitment to ECE.
 
The 2018 Early Childhood Workforce Index, published by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, presents a stark picture of the compensation landscape of the ECE workforce.  The index shows that despite rising public interest and federal funding, early care and education professionals continue to struggle to earn a wage sufficient to provide for their own families. 
 
Women are particularly impacted as they dominate the ECE field, and women of color, who comprise about 40 percent of the ECE workforce, fare even worse.  African American early care and education professionals earn $0.78 per hour less than their white coworkers, according to the index, even after controlling for educational attainment.
 
Ample research, based on exhaustive and wide ranging studies, indicates that the first years of a child’s life are critical to future success in school, work, and life. Yet, despite this wide body of research, conducted over many years, ECE educators remain among the least appreciated and lowest paid workers in the nation.  The time for change is now.
 
Meaningful reform means creating progressive policies, building infrastructure, and recognizing the long term benefits of quality early care and education. Too many ECE educators are in financial distress, too many children and their families cannot afford the cost of safe, high quality early care and education, and the current compensation system is profoundly unfair to women and women of color in particular.  The losers in this broken system are our children.
 
To achieve the change sorely needed in the nation’s early care and education system will require the help of everyone that cares about children and understands that our future is tethered to their plight. 
 
Despite very limited financial resources, Hopkins House is doing our part to improve compensation for preschool academy educators. This year, we increased the minimum hourly wage paid to our entry level ECE staff to $13.50 – a single year increase of 35 percent – with the goal to reach $15 per hour by 2020.  Our hope is that other early care and education providers will join us by increasing the wages of their educators.
 
You can help bring about change as well.  I invite you to examine the recommendations in the index Executive Summary and consider the active role you can play in transforming the ECE workforce for the sake of America’s young scholars.
 

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