San Francisco is on the precipice of some very exciting advancements in early childhood. Prop C, and the initiatives that preceded it indicated a huge public investment in early childhood. This Webinar series, What Every Policy Maker Should Know About Early Childhood Education explores Early Childhood Education research and case studies as shifts come to San Francisco early education funding.
Webinar 1: Dr. Steven Barnett on San Francisco’s Path Less Traveled | Webinar 2: Dr. Yoonjeon Kim and Dr. Caitlin McLean on Building a Highly Qualified, Well-Compensated Early Educator Workforce | Webinar 3: Dr. Cynthia Osborne on the Prennatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap
Webinar 2: Dr. Yoonjeon Kim and Dr. Caitlin McLean on Building a Highly Qualified, Well-Compensated Early Educator Workforce
In our second early care and education research webinar, we hear from Dr. Yoonjeon Kim and Dr. Caitlin McLean, leading researchers from UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE).
Dr. Kim is the Lead Research Analyst at CSCCE and focuses on the California ECE Workforce Study, which surveys early educators across the state in order to better inform policy decisions that can improve early childhood jobs. Dr. McLean has over a decade of research experience in early care and education systems and policy. As CSCCE’s Director of Multi-State and International Programs, she leads cross-state ECE workforce policy projects, such as the biennial Early Childhood Workforce Index, as well as related research on ECE compensation initiatives and workforce data.
Dr. Kim kicks off the webinar by exploring the demographics of California’s ECE workforce. Of the close to 120,000 ECE workers, 98% are women and the majority are women of color. Further, 29% of Center-based early educators and 54% of home-based early educators are immigrants.
While “nearly half of California’s Center-based teachers hold a bachelor’s degree or higher…this workforce remains undervalued and underpaid. In 2019, the median hourly wage of those classified as child care workers is $13.43. Preschool teachers fair only somewhat better with a median wage of $16.83.” When compared to median Kindergarten and Elementary school teacher wages, the contrast is stark. School-age teachers earn more than twice as much on average despite similar levels of education and experience.
What do Early Educators Need to Succeed?
Dr. McLean continues the discussion by presenting on the factors that enable early educators to effectively prepare young children for school and improve child outcomes. Over 20 years of research has made the answer clear: “Educators needs good preparation including not only understanding the science of child development but also the practice of implementing theory and leading groups of children. Educators also need supportive working environments including paid time…to plan curriculum, do paperwork, assessments, and observations. And educators also need appropriate compensation for the important work that they do so they can support themselves and their families without constantly worrying about how they’ll pay their bills or put food on their tables.”
Taking a deeper dive into the impacts of increased compensation on child outcomes, Dr. McLean explains that higher compensation leads to less economic stress and staff turnover, which in turn leads to higher job satisfaction and well-being, which leads to higher-quality teacher-child interactions, that ultimately foster improved child outcomes. Though the link between compensation and child outcomes is complex, the research supports what most in the field already know intuitively: “When you are mentally, physically, emotionally stressed, it’s much more difficult to be present with other folks in your lives including children and so as we’re relieving these financial burdens on teachers it’s much easier for them to be present in the classroom.”
Dr. Kim and Dr. McLean conclude the webinar by presenting their recommendations for building a highly-qualified, well-compensated early educator workforce. Public investment strategies must address the interconnected policy areas of fair compensation and financial relief, increasing qualifications and educational supports, positive and healthy workforce environments, and building robust workforce data. When public funding moves away from voucher and subsidy systems towards program grants that fund the full cost of developing the workforce through these interconnected policy areas, children thrive.
“The evidence is really clear that the key to quality early care and education is those who are providing the service. We know that we need a skilled and stable early educator workforce that can effectively engage with and support children’s learning during the most sensitive periods of their brain development.”