Early Childhood Workforce Index Tracks National Profession

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

A new report from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment seeks to establish a review of the employment conditions and policies for early childhood educators on a state by state basis in an effort to improve working conditions.

The report, “Early Childhood Workforce Index,” suggests that despite the central role played by early childhood educators in the development of infants and young children, the support and rewards offered to these professionals are “ineffective, inefficient, and inequitable,” and stand in the way of the ability of early childhood teachers to nurture their students’ ability to learn and develop – as well as their own well-being.

Future editions, beginning in 2018, will offer the opportunity to note specific trends and track the progress made by states over time.  The authors state that doing so will push states to increase their efforts to address the conditions under which early childhood educators continue to operate.

Previous research from 2014 found that economic insecurity stemming from low wages ran rampant among workers who care for and educate young children between birth and elementary school.  The report, “Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Early Care and Education Workforce 25 Years after the National Child Care Staffing Study,” suggests that despite continuing evidence from developmental scientists, economists, and business and labor leaders suggesting that early education is important to the optimum development of young children, the health of families, and the creation of a strong economy, poor working conditions persist.

At the same time, expectations of early childhood educators are on the rise.  A  2015 National Academies of Science study notes that it is “through the quality work of these adults that the nation can make it right from the very beginning for all of its children.”  The report states that “adults who are under-informed, underprepared, or subject to chronic stress themselves may contribute to children’s experiences of adversity and stress and undermine their development and learning.”

The authors recommend a reassessment of early childhood education policies across the nation with the hope of addressing the “intolerable conditions” that these teachers endure, while at the same time ensuring that the well-being of the teachers does not affect the economic needs of families who are “already overburdened by the high cost of early care and education.”

The index features a discussion of how states are operating on a number of topics, including earnings and economic security, the work environment, income supports and childcare assistance well-being, as well as supports offered for health.  Each state is listed in red, yellow, or green underneath each indicator, depending on their specific policies or conditions.

Tables in each section offer a state-by-state view of data for each indicator that give states the ability to fully understand how their assignments were made.  Recent research or promising developments will be discussed in each section that show an advancement made to new policies or improved conditions.