Child Care Providers Are Essential
Make no mistake: child care workers are essential workers. We have tasked child care providers with one of the most important jobs in our society: educating and nurturing our infants and toddlers and keeping them safe.
Yet the early child care profession is one of the most poorly compensated in the country. Many New Jersey early childhood educators make barely over minimum wage, earning $11.51 an hour on average (New Jersey’s minimum wage as of 2020 is $11), or just under $24,000 a year. More than half rely on public benefits to support themselves and their families.
For years, we’ve been asking child care professionals to sacrifice themselves and their families to do work that they love, and we need. Moreover, with the high costs of education and spiraling student loan debt, we have created a system where many early childhood educators literally cannot afford to work in the child care industry without making enormous sacrifices.
Countless educators leave the field for higher-paying work, and every day, passionate ‘would-be’ teachers decide not to join the profession in the first place. This combination of hard work and low wages causes a ‘revolving door’ of staff in child care programs. Turnover is high: we face a constant struggle to retain enough child care professionals to support the children who need care. When programs need to constantly find and replace staff members, program quality can suffer. Research shows high-quality child care sets the foundation for children during key developmental years from birth to age three, and positively impacts them for the rest of their lives. But we’ve created a system that does not prioritize caring for infants and toddlers in the way that they need. Children need support, starting from birth.
If we want our children to be successful, we need to invest in the people who care for them. This means ensuring early childhood educators have livable wages and the resources to do their jobs well now and in the future. Our campaign to Reimagine Child Care is committed to challenging policymakers, business leaders, and communities to rethink and rebuild the child care system in a way that supports children, educators, families and communities. Won’t you join us?