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The Future of Texas: Invest in Our Early Childhood Workforce Today

iStock_000014532667SmallThere is a crisis in early childhood education. As a field, the workforce is widely underpaid, undervalued, and overlooked as an important role in communities all across our state. Yet this workforce – racially and ethnically diverse, and heavily dominated by women – is charged with caring for and shaping young minds during the most developmentally critical time of their lives.

According to the Early Childhood Workforce Index 2016, released last month by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, nationally, child care workers make a median hourly wage of $9.77 as compared to an elementary school teacher at $26.39. In the state of Texas, that median wage falls to $9.12.

Findings also show 46% of child care workers nationally, compared to about 26% of the U.S. workforce as a whole, were part of families enrolled in at least one of four public support programs: the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps; and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In the state of Texas, that number climbs to 54%.

What can be done? The Berkeley report suggests a multi-pronged solution that focuses on making sure educators are qualified, have better working environments, and are paid more. It requires setting standard minimum educational requirements, providing access to foundational and advanced training, and developing workplace standards. And finally, achieving compensation equity means aiming for early childhood educators to have parity with K-12 teachers.

Texas is home to more than 1.9 million children 4 years and under, with 60% of these children spending their days in child care centers or home daycare. Considering the tremendous growth and foundational development that occurs during the first three years of life, failing to support early childhood educators means failing a whole generation of Texans, today and tomorrow.

Join with First3Years as we work to support early childhood educators and the children they serve every day throughout our state.

 

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