A first-of-its kind survey of early education employment conditions confirms what many Idaho pre-school educators already know: the Gem State, and many other U.S. states, shortchange those tasked with developing the nation's youngest minds.
“The time is long overdue for moving from the question of why we must improve early childhood jobs to a focus on how to make it happen,” wrote Dr. Lea Austin, co-author of the report published by the University of California at Berkeley.
Idaho's median wage of $8.29 per hour for childcare workers and $10.54 per hour for pre-school educators ranked last in the country. Additionally, the ratio of early educators to the number of Idaho children ages 0-5 years is 45-to-1.
“States continue to struggle to attract and retain skilled educators," wrote Marcy Whitebrook, director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment and the study's other co-author. "And, as a nation, we continue to place unconscionable demands on the dedicated women who, day in and day out, do their best to support the learning and well-being of children, often against enormous odds."
Fortunately the study didn't only contain bad news. It also highlighted recommendations for proposed actions:
- Establishing minimum educational requirements;
- Establishing environmental standards to reduce stressful conditions;
- Implementation of compensation and benefit guidelines;
- Development of an up-to-date workforce data system.
“Without transforming policies that shape how we prepare, support and pay early educators, the 21st- century goal of quality early learning opportunities for all children will remain elusive” Whitebook wrote.