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R-E-$-P-E-C-T for Early-Childhood Educators

Last week, the Massachusetts-based Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children released a white paper outlining four strategies to improve pay for child-care workers, Head Start teachers, and others who work with young children outside pre-K in public schools. These early educators average $11.77 per hour, or $24,480 a year as full-time workers. Even in states with stronger career ladders, early-educators may only earn an hourly raise of 50 cents for obtaining a bachelor's degree.

To improve pay and opportunities for professional growth, the report recommends:
• Developing a career ladder with clearly defined job titles and duties;
• Wage increases as educators increase their responsibilities;
• Bonuses to reward training and higher degrees, and
• Building an early-education endowment fund to support the program.

The report cites Maine and Washington states as models.

Meanwhile, on the private-sector side, nannies scored a victory in New York in late August, when Gov. David Patterson signed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. The new law guarantees nannies, housekeepers, elder-care workers, and other domestic employees minimum wage, overtime, one day off per week and disability protection. Interestingly, it's hard to find a straight news story on this, but it was fodder for a column and some blogging at the New York Daily News, including Erin Einhorn's blog post. The bill came after six years of organizing by Domestic Workers United.

Last March, parents in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood were surveyed, and the majority pay their nannies off the books. According to this Gothamist story on the survey, the International Nanny Association shows that the average nanny working for a New York City family with one child earns $777 per week, while the average Park Slope nanny earns just $548 per week.

Why am I writing all this in a blog about early-childhood education? Because these are the people who really are young children's first teachers. The white paper and the organizing drive appear to be early stirrings of the same kind of discussion we see in the K-12 world about whether higher pay will attract better-qualified candidates to the profession. And I'm going to take one minute to make the point that the more teaching looks like mothering, the less our society is willing to pay for it.

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