Program to Educate and Retain Child Care Teachers Benefits Children and the Economy

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On Monday, a report about a North Carolina program that succeeds at educating and reducing child care teacher turnover will be released. Retaining educated child care teachers is vital for children, the child care industry, and the economy as a whole. Low salaries contribute to turnover. The Child Care WAGE$ Project provides incentives for teachers to take college-level early education classes and stay on the job.

“Skilled and committed teachers are the backbone of a successful early education system,” said Fanjul. “If we want the tens of thousands of children in early learning programs to arrive at school ready to succeed, we have to invest in teachers.”

Last year, more than 90,000 North Carolina children gained more highly-skilled teachers committed to their classrooms thanks to the Child Care WAGE$® Project . The project provided funding to educate and retain more than 7,000 early care and education professionals as a way of improving children’s early learning experiences. Research shows that child care programs with highly-skilled teachers and low turnover rates benefit children developmentally, socially, and eventually economically.

Before first grade, a child may spend more than10,000 hours in child care. Research proves that children benefit long-term when they have professionally-qualified and adequately-compensated early education teachers. Unfortunately, North Carolina preschool teachers make approximately $22,530 a year, which is almost half the salary of kindergartener teachers. In Durham County, 40% of child care teachers and assistant teachers needed at least one type of public assistance such as food stamps or Medicaid in the past 3 years, according to a 2009 early childhood workforce study.

“In North Carolina, few early educators have higher education degrees and many earn as little as $8 per hour,” said Sue Russell, president of the Child Care Services Association (CCSA), the nonprofit that runs the Child Care WAGE$® Project. “We have to do better. These teachers play a key role in shaping the next generation of citizens. They deserve a living wage and incentives to continue this important work.”

The Child Care WAGE$® Project provides education-based salary supplements to qualifying early educators. It encourages teachers to take college-level early education classes and rewards them financially for their training and for staying on the job. Last year, 97% of WAGE$ recipients said the funding helped ease financial stress, while 79% percent said they needed the funding to pay bills. Additionally, 72% said that the funding helped them address the basic needs of their families such as food and housing.

Smart Start, the North Carolina Office of Early Learning and the state’s Division of Child Development help fund the Child Care WAGE$® Project. Stephanie Fanjul is the president of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., the organization that leads Smart Start.

“Skilled and committed teachers are the backbone of a successful early education system,” said Fanjul. “If we want the tens of thousands of children in early learning programs to arrive at school ready to succeed, we have to invest in teachers.”

The Child Care WAGE$® Project 2009-2010 report summary is now available at http://www.childcareservices.org. For information about Smart Start visit http://www.smartstart.org.

The earliest years of childhood are critical. Experiences during this time literally shape the structure of the brain. Because today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, parents and workers, everyone has a stake in making sure all children have the experiences they need to thrive. Smart Start is the system that brings together all the people involved in a young child’s life—families, teachers, doctors, caregivers, social workers, and many others—to ensure every child has all they need for healthy growth and development. For more information, visit http://www.smartstart.org.

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