A Moment with Dr. Moore: Getting Our CDAs a Seat at the Table

November 17, 2022

Advocacy groups are looking for answers as the child care crisis mounts. A chronic shortage of child care across the U.S. had curbed the economy’s growth even before COVID-19 swept the country in 2020—and the pandemic just worsened the problem. That’s the message that Robin Phillips, CEO at Child Care Aware of Missouri, passed on to child care providers, business leaders and advocates last month at the first Child Care Task Force Town Hall meeting in Joplin, MO.

“Access to child care has always been an issue,” Phillips said. “COVID just exposed it, pulled back the curtain and said, ‘Looky here, this is how fragmented and messed up this system is in the sense of sustainability and breaking-in points for these child care businesses.’” Early childhood teachers are fleeing the field, forcing many centers to shutter their doors—a deep source of concern for moms and dads since child care allows them to work.

It’s an essential part of life, like that morning cup of Joe for most of us. So, America needs to wake up and smell the coffee: our early childhood teachers play a key role in boosting prosperity and the GNP. When families can access high-quality child care, they earn higher wages and are less likely to drop out of the workforce. So, the ongoing crisis has sent shock waves through the economy of our country. Since the start of the pandemic, millions of people have left their jobs because they lack child care, and the search for solutions goes on.

In Wisconsin, for example, “we have seen increasing numbers of state organizations, parents, economic and community leaders who recognize the critical importance of high-quality and affordable child care for healthy children and a healthy Wisconsin economy,” said Ruth Schmidt, executive director of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association. Recently, WECA launched a new initiative and website, RaisingWisconsin.org, to provide research, resources and recommended first steps for employers, community leaders, parents and child care providers who want to organize and advocate for long-term child care solutions.

We must address several key issues to confront the workforce crisis in our field, as the National Head Start Association pointed out this year. Chronic low compensation, challenging work conditions and better opportunities for employment are factors that call for immediate action, according to a poll of attendees at Head Start’s 2022 annual conference. The 900-plus respondents to the survey also had a chance to give feedback and tell their story in their own words.

And the comments they made underline just how much our early childhood teachers are struggling. “We need livable wages,” as one respondent pleaded. “We are losing young people with great potential who are at the start of their careers, as well as seasoned people who love Head Start’s vision and the people who they work with but are forced to leave because they can’t support their families on the wages we are currently paid.” And their departures make it even harder for teachers who do remain. “All our managers have worked daily in the classrooms since Thanksgiving so that we can keep the classrooms open,” said another respondent. And “the constant need to close programs,” yet another respondent wrote, “has highly affected the development of our children and our hardworking families.”

These were issues that also came up at a recent National Head Start rally on Capitol Hill. It brought together senators, reps and early childhood leaders from around the country to urge Congress to boost support for young children and America’s future. Council staff members were there to give their support, and we also made our own case for the early childhood profession when we held a Virtual Capitol Hill Day this year. As part of the event, the members of our CDA® community had a chance to talk with members of Congress about the trials and triumphs of their work, as well as make a case for supporting the CDA.

The Council is not new to the advocacy arena. We’ve been fighting for the ECE profession since our nonprofit began in 1985. What has changed is that we’re now using our own voice to tell our own story and advocate for the CDA. We believe the CDA can be a solution to the teacher shortage while maintaining the quality of care. The CDA provides rising teachers with the training and tools they need to help children reach their potential. And earning a CDA also helps early childhood teachers fulfill their promise. Holding the credential often results in the higher wages teachers so desperately need. And even more important, it’s the first rung on a longer career ladder in the ECE field—all reasons why we’re urging Congress to embed the CDA into federal regulations as the preferred entry level credential for professionals in ECE.

As we reach into the lofty halls of Congress, we’re also being careful to keep our ear to the ground and continue listening to our early childhood teachers. We want to give voice to the more than 800,000 teachers who have earned the CDA since the Council’s inception. We want to advocate for the things our CDAs can’t advocate for themselves, such as making sure that CDA coursework counts toward credits for other degrees. We’re working to find out what our teachers want from lawmakers at the state and federal level. We’re eager to find out their hopes and dreams for the future of our field. We want to explore the issues that concern our ECE professionals most. And we want to provide them with answers to the challenges they face.

The bottom line is that we need to make our teachers’ work conditions and wages better because they keep our families working. And we need to listen to what our teachers have to say. They’re the ones who are in the trenches every day and actually see what’s happening in our field. Their opinion counts as lawmakers, parents and business leaders look for solutions. Many of them now realize that our country’s economy runs on child care. So, the Council is committed to advocating for our teachers and advancing their professional goals. Our CDAs deserve a seat at the national table as we all confront the continuing child care crisis.


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