While we are all looking forward to spring and the hope it brings, this month marks a year that we have been navigating the impacts of COVID-19.
We often hear that our children are resilient, and they are, but what we hear less about are the educators. Our educators have been on the front lines from day one, supporting our youngest learners’ needs during these trying times.
Policymakers and thought leaders have said that this could be our opportunity to “fix child care.” It is the perfect storm of events: a global pandemic, more than 4 million people leaving the workforce since last year (mostly women) and 60% of child care centers being forced to close.
I arrived at the Council for Professional Recognition almost a year ago, and as a holder of our Child Development Associate® (CDA) credential myself, I could see how these early childhood educators were being put to the test of their lives and they were ready for it!
The child care industry should be recognized as an integral part of our greater infrastructure. This idea is taking hold with policy advocates arguing that recognizing the industry in this way will not only allow parents to return and continue to work but also potentially create new jobs.
Furthermore, we need to recognize that these educators deserve wages that enable economic mobility. Historically early childhood educators have been Latinas and Asian and Black women. In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median hourly wage for these educators was just $11.65 an hour. Research shows us that every dollar invested in early childhood programs is well spent, yielding between $4 and $12 in return.
Our CDAs tell us that they are prepared to support families. Their training allows them to understand what our children are going through while helping them navigate their feelings and understanding of what is happening in the world around them. These jobs by their very nature require in-person, individual connections between the educator and student, not to mention that these early years are crucial for a child’s development.
I am opening myself up to cautious hope. I have seen and spoken to educators who are encouraged by the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement about the priority for early educators to be vaccinated as soon as possible. This is one step in the right direction, but we need to see more things like this happen.
We have been working with several states to help those interested find their way to early education. Just last month, the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Early Childhood, Maryland Family Network and the Council announced a partnership to provide funding to support Maryland-based child care providers in obtaining the CDA. Similar programs exist other states.
As we approach 1 million CDAs across the globe, I encourage others to consider the value and stability these educators bring to our lives and how we can best support their commitment to our children.