Investing in the Early Ed Workforce is Good for Students, Families and the Economy

Today the U.S. Department of Education unveiled a report that shows a disturbing pay gap for early childhood teachers – 97 percent of whom are women. The report’s release is timely given the White House Council on Women and Girls is currently convening the United State of Women Summit, bringing together experts, advocates and business leaders to discuss issues that impact women and girls.

The report highlighted that education and training requirements have increased for early childhood teachers, but pay has not. The Department said that the report found, “In all states, median annual earnings for the child care workforce would qualify a worker with a family of three for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.” But underpaying and undervaluing our nation’s early childhood teachers runs contradictory to everything we know about the benefits and importance of early learning.

The evidence is clear: the one investment that leads to better educational outcomes, stronger job earnings, and lower crime rates is high-quality early learning programs. These programs help prevent and mitigate achievement gaps for low-income children, with long-term benefits for our nation. But all of these gains are in jeopardy if we fail to invest in a well-compensated, well-qualified and well-supported early education teacher workforce.

Committee Democrats remain committed to solutions that ensure children can attend high-quality early learning programs that are able to invest in their early learning workforce, such as the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. Strong Start would:

  • Provide pathways for teachers to earn industry certifications or higher education degrees;
  • Support increased compensation for teachers with these credentials; and
  • Allow all children from families below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level to enroll in high-quality pre-K programs.

If the United States is going to continue to retain a well-trained and qualified workforce, we need to show our nation’s teachers that we value their contributions to our students and the future of our economy.