HARRISBURG, PA — As the Pennsylvania General Assembly considers next year’s budget, Teach Plus Early Childhood Education Policy Fellows released a report calling for greater state investment in early childhood education to support increased compensation and support for educators. In Strengthening the Foundation, Teach Plus teacher leaders share findings from focus groups conducted with early childhood educators from across Pennsylvania along with recommendations for policymakers to improve early education and care for those who care for our youngest learners.
“Who better to inform policymakers on the needs within the early childhood education field than those who are in the classrooms working with the children and families every day?” asked Donna Kilgore, a Teach Plus Senior Policy Fellow and Pre-K Counts teacher at Bloom Early Learning Center in Swoyersville. “As early childhood educators, we have daily experience with the needs and barriers within this field. This work is incredibly rewarding and it is definitely a labor of love, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be respected and compensated as the high-level profession that it is.”
Teach Plus teacher leaders identified four key findings based on their educator focus groups:
- Overwhelmingly, early childhood educators believe that compensation in their profession is woefully inadequate, and that higher wages and better benefits would lead to higher rates of staff recruitment and retention and higher morale within the field.
- Early childhood educators believe the general public does not understand the importance, complexity, and difficulty of their work, leading to diminished professional respect.
- Early childhood educators value formal post-secondary education, on-the-job training, and mentorship to develop as professionals and want more equitable opportunities to pursue such professional development.
- Early childhood educators want more high-level training in communicating and engaging with families, cultural competency, child development and developmentally appropriate practices, and classroom management strategies.
“Our findings bring to light the neglected state of early childhood education,” said Cristina Gutierrez, a Teach Plus Policy Fellow and kindergarten teacher in the School District of Philadelphia. “We have a labor force that loves the profession and works hard to get the credentials necessary, yet has to continuously make sacrifices to make ends meet. What does that say about our priorities as a society?”
Based on the report findings, Teach Plus Policy Fellows made the following recommendations:
- Increasing compensation for early childhood educators should be a top priority in upcoming state budgets, moving toward a defined salary scale and income parity between early childhood and K-12 educators with the same degrees.
- Policymakers should take steps to make early childhood education funding more stable, predictable, and sustainable through shifts toward grant payments and cost-of-care models.
- Policymakers should increase funding for the early childhood educator pipeline to support postsecondary education, on-the-job training, and mentorship.
- Early childhood education providers and the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) should ensure that all early childhood educators have access to ongoing professional development in communicating and engaging with families, cultural competency, child development and developmentally appropriate practices, and classroom management strategies
“This report is a mandate for our legislators and policy makers to prioritize the need for equitable, family-thriving compensation and benefits to early childhood educators,” said Sandra Riley, a Teach Plus Policy Fellow and head teacher for school-age children at Spring Garden Early Learning Center in Easton, Pennsylvania. Specifically, Fellows called for a $430 million investment in the 2023-24 budget to implement a child care teacher wage scale.
“This report shows that whether they are in rural, urban, or suburban areas, early childhood educators lack the family-thriving wage they deserve,” said Lyssa Horvath, a Teach Plus Policy Fellow and Pre-K Counts teacher at Belmont Charter Schools in Philadelphia. “Legislators should act to establish funds that directly raise the wages of the educators who work with our youngest learners.”
About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has developed thousands of teacher leaders across the country to exercise their leadership in shaping education policy and improving teaching and learning, to create an education system driven by access and excellence for all. teachplus.org
Laura Boyce, firstname.lastname@example.org, 215-429-5151