Child care, early education providers call for worthy wages

To the Editor

For more than 20 years at the beginning of each May, child care providers and other early childhood professionals nationwide recognize Worthy Wage Day (May 1), raising public awareness to highlight the importance of child care provider compensation as part of quality early childhood education. The committed individuals who nurture and teach the nearly 70% of Iowa’s young children who are cared for outside of their home every day continue to be undervalued despite the importance of their work. The grossly inadequate level of wages for child care staff – roughly $18,180 a year for full time work, and typically less than that in rural Iowa – has led to difficulties in attracting and retaining high quality early childhood caretakers and educators. The turnover of childcare providers is typically around 30 percent a year; this high rate interrupts consistent relationships that children need to have with their caregivers in order to flourish.

What do educated early childhood teachers and providers do?

Deliver high quality services to ensure children are ready for school

Help all children gain early language and literacy skills to be ready for reading

Model respect and nurturing relationships to help children learn to play and work with others

Provide rich learning environments

Support children’s understanding of key math concepts through play activities

Support children’s physical health and growth, nutrition, and large and fine motor skills

Partnering with families to promote children’s development

Allowing parents to be able to work

Continuing their own education to know the latest research and have resources needed

Promote cognitive development through stimulating activities and materials, and appropriate questions

The 2010 Iowa Center and Family Child Care Provider Wage Study found the average hourly wage for a teacher in a licensed child care program to be $9.96 per hour, barely over $20,000 per year. Assistant teachers and child care providers who provide care in their homes earn even less, between $8,000 to 18,000 per year for full-time work. When compared to other occupations on the OES Wage Survey from the Iowa Workforce Development, only fast food cooks/cashiers typically earn less than your child’s teacher or caregiver. Even animal caretakers and parking lot attendants average more per hour than those who provide early care and education services. Those responsible for the care of our most precious possessions, our youngest children, are earning poverty-level wages that typically do not allow adequate support for their own families.

Do something special on Child Care Worthy Wage Day to honor your child’s caregiver. A compensation bonus would be a nice start.

Barbara Merrill

Iowa Association for

the Education of

Young Children