The CDA Advisory Committee was created to provide insights, perspectives, and best practices to the CDA community and other early childhood professionals. Established during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the members’ first-hand experiences and knowledge continue to be a cornerstone for the Council’s understanding of what is happening on the ground in centers across the country. The Committee conducts regular meetings where the members share the most pertinent information with Council CEO Dr. Calvin E. Moore, Jr.
During a recent meeting, the members shared information about what they are seeing in their areas. The Committee addressed several topics during a Q&A session with Dr. Moore.
Has enrollment increased?
One of the newest members of the Committee, Janna Rodriguez from Freeport, New York, is the owner of The Innovative Daycare Corp and a CDA holder, shared that she has been taking care of children of essential workers during the pandemic. Rodriguez assisted families in helping them keep their subsidies, and by July 2021, she was at capacity. She was fortunate that she has not lost any of the families she supports. Rodriguez also shared that she now has a waiting list for slots and refers families to other centers in the area because she believes “in the importance of supporting one another.”
Another new member of the Committee, Jerry Graham from Hampton, Virginia, currently works at the U.S. Navy’s Child and Youth Programs, said he saw a drastic reduction in enrollment during the first COVID wave but was pleased to report that since last November the classrooms have begun to fill back up. One challenge Graham is seeing is that so many early ed centers have closed in the past two years and have not reopened, and now there is a shortage in his area. He would like to encourage entrepreneurs who have a passion for the field to step up and help open centers.
What are the sentiments about the profession currently and are you seeing changes?
More people understand the value that early childhood educators bring to the economy as an essential workforce. Policymakers and influential leaders need to understand and recognize that early childhood educators need to be paid more. On several occasions during the Committee’s conversation, the topic turned to wages and the fact that many educators are significantly underpaid and do not receive health benefits. Rodriguez shared that she is working with young, talented people who want to be in the early education field but are discouraged by the fact that educators are not paid a living wage and rarely can take a weekday off, among other things.
This discussion led to the issue of staffing. It’s an uphill battle says Aaron “Buddy” Rhodes from Alexandria, Virginia, a CDA Professional Development Specialist™, and currently works at Endeavor Schools. He echoed Rodriguez’s sentiment about low pay for educators and shared that one accommodation his center is making is to provide free child care for teachers. Rhodes explained that this is a huge benefit to staff: it keeps them in the field, and the hours meet the needs of their children. He says this benefit has brought in a lot more candidates.
Graham shared that while educators want to stay in education, many centers cannot offer health benefits or retirement plans, and he has seen a mass exodus. Graham says the Navy’s Child and Youth programs have close to 600 positions in the Mid-Atlantic region but is competing with larger companies where people can earn a higher hourly wage. “We lost many of our educators during the pandemic who had to find other jobs. Not because their hearts were not in it, but because they had to feed their families and pay their mortgage.” Graham encouraged the Committee and the Council to come together to find creative ways to get people into the profession and keep them. He is worried we will not have anyone to pass the baton to and believes we need to be intentional about who we are recruiting to be sure we have good, passionate people.
“This Committee advances the early childhood education profession by providing us guidance on the most relevant things happening in our sector,” said Dr. Moore. “I am grateful for your leadership and commitment.” Dr. Moore brought up the fact that there is a growing number of children of color in their classrooms and that in the next 20 years, we could see a majority-minority in our classrooms. Dr. Moore would like to see more diversity in ECE to be sure children see themselves in their teachers.
Rodriguez spoke about her experience when preparing for her CDA. Her instructor focused on diversity and inclusion in the CDA process. She shared the importance of the children seeing role models and heroes in herself and others in ECE.
Graham talked about the importance of embedding diversity and inclusion into any curriculum we are using. Graham shared that he believes we need to support and prepare our educators to be culturally responsive and that it should be embedded in everything we do in the classroom. Graham would like to see cultural sensitivity and responsiveness training mandatory for teachers. He said that we are talking about these things now, but he believes that similar to teachers being required to be CPR certified and trained to teach children to read, we should have professional development that focuses on cultural and racial responsiveness and sensitivity in the classroom.
Charvella McKaye, from Columbus, Ohio, is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Development and Education at Columbus State Community College who oversees the CDA credential preparation program and says her program is looking at ways to support and prepare students to be culturally responsive educators. She works with her students to understand where they are coming from, their backgrounds, and their biases. She says those conversations can be challenging, but they are important.
Dr. Moore recognized the commitment of each member to by saying, “We need more folks like you in these positions to understand the changing dynamics. We do not want to miss an opportunity to be prepared for what is to come.”
For more information on the Committee, visit https://www.cdacouncil.org/en/cda-advisory-committee/.