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Iowa’s Child Care Workers Deserve Worthy Wage

May 4, 2012
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Dear Editor:

Fifty-hour work weeks. Poverty level pay. Children with special needs and difficult behaviors. Parents with demands for high quality care. A hundred diapers to change a week. New program standards to achieve. High exposure to illness. Health insurance benefits rare. Is there any doubt as to why there is a record high job turnover in Iowa's child care providers?

For over twenty years at the beginning of each May, child care providers and other early childhood professionals nationwide conduct public awareness and education efforts highlighting the importance of child care provider compensation as part of quality early childhood education for our nation's youngest citizens. Child Care Worthy Wage Day will be recognized this year on May 1. The committed individuals who nurture and teach the nearly 70% of Iowa's young children who are cared for outside of their home everyday, continue to be undervalued despite the importance of their work. We know that children begin to learn at birth, and that the quality of care they receive both at home and while their parents work plays a major role in their language development, math skills, behavior, and general readiness for school. However, the grossly inadequate level of wages for child care staff - roughly $18,180 a year and typically less than that in Iowa - has led to difficulties in attracting and retaining high quality early childhood caretakers and educators. In addition to low wages, only approximately one third of child care workers have health insurance and even fewer have pension benefits. As a result, the turnover of childcare providers is 30 percent a year; this high turnover rate interrupts consistent and stable relationships that children need to have with their caregivers in order to flourish and grow.

The Iowa Center and Family Child Care Provider Wage Study, completed in 2010 by Iowa Workforce Development in collaboration with Early Childhood Iowa, the Iowa Department of Education, and Iowa State University, found the average hourly wage for a teacher in a licensed child care program to be $9.96 per hour, barely over $20,000 per year. Assistant teachers and child care providers who provide care in their homes earn even less, between $8,000-18,000 per year for full-time work. When compared to other occupations on the OES Wage Survey from the Iowa Workforce Development, only fast food cooks and cashiers typically earn less than your child's teacher or caregiver. Even animal caretakers (non-farm) and parking lot attendants average more per hour than a child care provider! Those responsible for the care of our most precious possessions, our babies and young children, are earning poverty-level wages that typically do not allow adequate support for their own families. Nearly 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act. However, women in the United States, working full-time, receive only $ 0.77 on the dollar compared to their male counterparts, with women of color receiving even less, according to recent research shared by the National Women's Law Center. HYPERLINK "" In many ways, this wage gap is due in part to the lower paid professions such as the child care profession, with a workforce predominately made up of women.

The Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children (Iowa AEYC) is an affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the world's largest early childhood education association, with over 80,000 members and a network of over 300 local, state, and regional Affiliates. Iowa AEYC sponsors the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Program for Iowa, a comprehensive scholarship/compensation program that provides the early childhood workforce with access to educational opportunities leading to degrees, licenses, and credentials in early childhood education and helping to establish a well-qualified, fairly compensated, and stable workforce for the young children in our state. T.E.A.C.H. requires compensation increases as those currently providing child care complete increased levels of education. Over 1200 Iowa child care providers and preschool teachers have completed credits towards degrees in early childhood education which will insure a compensation increase, while they continue the important work of caring for our youngest children. Wages for child care providers participating in T.E.A.C.H. increase 6-8% annually, and T.E.A.C.H. participants typically earn a minimum of 10% more than their counterparts across the state.

Do something special on Child Care Worthy Wage Day to honor your child's caregiver or teacher. A compensation bonus would be a nice start!

Barbara Merrill

Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children

Des Moines



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