At the height of the pandemic, advocates, early childhood educators, parents, and grassroots leaders vowed to work towards a more ambitious future where early childhood educators are diverse, effective, well-prepared, and well-compensated. The essential role of the ECE (Early Care and Education) workforce was on display for the nation, and advocates successfully raised new revenue, maximized use of COVID relief funding, and enacted policy changes centered on equity that can set the stage for bolder reforms in the future.
Advocates in several states fought for and won policy changes that demonstrate the bold and inspirational thinking that can advance a state more toward a more diverse, effective, prepared, and well-compensated early childhood workforce.
- Washington State passed the Fair Start for Kids Act, dedicating $66 million in the state budget for compensation and health coverage for child care workers.
- Alabama doubled the quarterly salary bonuses for child care staff to $3,000 for full-time employees and $1,500 for part-time employees.
- Kentucky took a creative route on compensation by making child care staff (not just teachers) categorically eligible for child care subsidies. Like other states, they are also investing in ECE apprenticeship programs, including one for program administrators, to help early childhood educators advance their professional credentials while earning better wages.
- Vermont created The Student Loan Repayment Assistance Program for Early Childhood Educators that provides up to $4,000 annually to reduce the student debt of full-time educators who earned an early childhood-specific degree within the past five years.
- Illinois partnered partnered with the state higher education system to create more inclusive and supportive pathways for educators to pursue credentials and degrees through scholarships, articulation agreements, coaches, and navigators, providing credits for prior learning, and more accessible courses.
Advocates in Washington, DC, engaged in the implementation of the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund, which provides salary bonuses of $10,000 for assistant teachers and $14,000 for lead teachers. Advocates are now working on a more permanent solution with the government by developing a salary scale that provides compensation parity between public school teachers and early childhood educators with similar levels of education and credential. ECE providers who adopt this salary scale would receive funding from the Pay Equity Fund to increase compensation for their staff. Finally, this fund will pay for publicly financed health insurance plans for all eligible employees of licensed early learning facilities in the District.
The past two years also saw tens of thousands of early childhood professionals leave the workforce, so, despite the successes made in supporting the field, the urgency to do more remains. To further inspire bold action at the state level, the Alliance for Early Success is updating the 2020 Build Stronger Child Care Policy Roadmap to highlight more examples that advocates can use as templates for building the next-generation ECE workforce and systems that truly serve all children and families effectively and equitably.
There are also federal achievements to celebrate. Although the proposed large-scale federal investment did not pass, the 2022 investment for early care and education through the Omnibus Appropriations bill was the second largest in recent history—and states can do historic things with the additional funds. The Child Care and Development Block Grant can be invested in the child care workforce. Preschool Development Grant (B-5) funding also increased by $25 million and 42 states were just awarded new grants to build birth to five systems that should include professional development, compensation, and benefits.
The Administration of Children and Families will host a webinar on March 1, 2023 about these and other new federal funding opportunities and resources that could help states stabilize and strengthen the ECE workforce.
For more resources on supporting the Early Care and Education workforce, visit the Alliance’s ECE workforce resource center.