Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pay: A Key Factor in Quality Improvement

The research for developing a system to improve the quality of Early Learning programs often sites a well-prepared, professional workforce, but rarely are the salaries of those who care for our youngest members of society mentioned.  Many people seem to feel that improving teacher performance, education, and training can be done while still offering Early Learning professionals near poverty wages.  Somehow paying a skilled workforce a professional wage does not enter the equation even while many other fields fight to keep wages high in the name of attracting the best and brightest. 

 According to a report by the Government Accountability Office entitled  HSS and Education Are Taking Steps to Improve Workforce Data and Enhance Worker Quality  "average yearly income ranged from $11,500 for a child care worker working in a child's home to $18,000 for a preschool teacher."  The poverty rate for a family of 4 in 2009 was $22,050 (Department of Health and Human Services) which means that many Early Learning providers do not earn enough to support themselves or their families.  This is in spite of the research that shows that the brain will develop more than at any other point in life, and the foundational skills needed to be successful in life are built during this critical point in development. 

There are many reasons for the low pay in Early Education, but the biggest reason it stays low is that few people are talking about it or are willing to address it as an issue related to quality.  Money is tight, particularly in these times,  and the evidence for how quality is improved by how much and what type of education is inconclusive so there is little incentive for policy makers to address this issue.  However, if Early Childhood Care and Education is ever to be a respected and well-paid field that attracts the best than pay is central, and shouldn't the field that lies the foundation for a person's future be encouraged to attract the best and the brightest like any other business?

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