Essential workers making poverty wages
While the state of Arizona is making strides toward increasing teacher pay, one group has been noticeably left behind, early childhood educators. A new report out by the Berkeley Center for the Study of Child Care Employment highlights that early childhood educators in Arizona are still lagging far behind. The field is largely made up of women and often women of color, and despite the fact that we ask them to provide care to our most vulnerable citizens, they often make poverty wages. During the COVID pandemic, it has become clear that child care is an essential service, yet the policy response at the state and federal level has largely ignored the educators themselves. Unfortunately, this was an existing problem that has only been made worse in the last 12 months. According to the report “The burden of school closures and parents continuing to work falls on child care providers. We need to be properly recognized through appropriate funding, PPE, and support systems. The government is largely ignoring the particularly unique burden that is put on child care during this pandemic.”
The Arizona data shows that the median wage for child care workers is $11.97 and even those with a bachelor’s degree make 21% less than their counterparts in the K-8 education system. And worse, the POVERTY rate for early educators is over 20%, double that for other Arizona workers. The gap in pay is an issue of parity in the education field, but it is also an equity and access issue. We cannot continue to expect the ECE workforce to bear the burden of care during this education crisis in America without compensating them adequately for the important work that they do.