Our child care workforce is greatly undervalued despite the critical role they play in our children’s and families’ lives. Since their work is rarely acknowledged or appreciated, it has become increasingly challenging to recruit and retain early educators. Less staff means fewer open classrooms and more difficulty finding care. This is especially true for infant and toddler slots since infant-toddler teachers are paid the least in their field, despite working under the most difficult conditions.
As a nation, we have failed to recognize the importance of the early childhood workforce—public investment for early care and education is embarrassingly low. This has occurred despite research showing that young children’s brains develop fastest during the birth to age 5 period and that having access to a quality program can help boost their outcomes later in life. Having a nurturing, safe, and healthy place to learn during the early years can help close the opportunity gap and give all children the ability to thrive.
Our early childhood workforce arrives at work every day to provide care for our youngest and most vulnerable students, simply because of their passion for working with young children. As a society, our failure to acknowledge child care staff as essential further hurts not only the field, but children and families who rely on care. This back-to-school season let’s make sure we recognize and thank the early childhood teachers that allow parents and caregivers to go to work while their child(ren) thrive at their early learning program.
Norton, Jordan, Rachel Salrin, Corinne Lee, and Joellyn Whitehead. n.d. Illinois Salary and Staffing Survey of Licensed Child Care Facilities Fiscal Year 2021. Springfield, IL: Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.