Low Wages Weigh Down Early Education

When carrying the weight of heavy financial hardships, focusing at work can be challenging if not nearly impossible. This is especially critical when your job is setting children up for lifelong success. This recent article by the Washington Post (“Half of America’s childcare workers need food stamps, welfare payments or Medicaid”) emphasizes the link between early childhood education and the quality of its workforce — and how we have a lot of work to do.

“The people who are paid to watch America’s children tend to live in poverty. Nearly half receive some kind of government assistance: food stamps, welfare money, Medicaid. Their median hourly wage is $9.77 — about $3 below the average janitor’s.” Source: Washington Post

Highlighting the integral role of early, repeated interactions in a child’s life, this article sheds light on how low wages for early educators can snowball into a series of interconnected issues impacting employees, children, families and tomorrow’s economy.

“Wages remain paltry even among the college-educated workforce. Early childhood education is the college major that yields the lowest lifetime pay.” Source: Washington Post

While educators in pre-K and up have set salaries through collective bargaining agreements, no equivalent exists in the early childhood space. Our new minimum wage law will set the floor — and in the District, we have the opportunity to examine this issue and find a way to ensure better salaries for childcare workers and brighter futures for all of our children. Learn more about the Birth-to-Three Policy Alliance and this group’s commitment to D.C. infants and toddlers.

For some additional local perspective, this blog post from our colleagues at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute (“Improving the Economic Security of DC’s Early Care and Education Workforce”) shares some suggestions the District can consider.