The early childhood education system in the United States is fundamentally broken. In an industry that rarely sees the quality, affordability and availability offered in the same place, this is more a fact than a subjective point of view.
As it is, this is how it generally works (or doesn’t work): families are often forced to pay more than they can afford.sometimes as much or more of the mortgages on their homes—For the care and education of their children. Yet those in care and education are among the poorest workers in this country, with falling wages in the second percentile when ranked against other professions nationwide, he earns an average of $ 11.65 an hour and often requires public assistance to make ends meet. Childcare providers, meanwhile, barely even at best and ends up closing at worst. And children are often denied the high-quality care they need and deserve.
This dynamic on the ground is not new, but it has worsened significantly during the pandemic.
Take, for example, the labor shortage that plagues many industries nationwide. This is particularly pronounced in the childcare sector, which is expanding into a total crisis in many parts of the country, where some programs are still not serving anywhere near their pre-pandemic capacity due to high turnover and a shortage of early childhood educators. The shortage boils down to low wages, high risk and minimal compliance, which are sure to last longer than the pandemic unless something changes.
These challenges came in full view during the vaccine launch in the country earlier this year, when K-12 educators in a number of states took priority over their counterparts in early childhood education. Many early childhood educators have described the insult as “a slap in the face,” but said they were not surprised: it follows the longstanding low regard that the public holds them.
While the industry has suffered, however, it has also ultimately garnered widespread public attention, interest and indignation, which are often the harbingers of change.
Congress is currently considering a bill that should include measures to fund universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, extend the tax credit for children, raise wages for childcare workers, and make Federal paid family leave is mandatory, although the final version of this bill will likely include diminished funding or full cuts to some of those programs.
What has become clear over the past year and a half, as the pandemic dragged on, is that the early childhood sector has reached a tipping point. How will the policy be redesigned? The field will come to be treated as a public good, like many others other countries see what it is? Who has to gain and to lose? What does high quality early learning look like and why is it important? Will early childhood educators start earning the pay and respect they deserve?
As the tides turn and unfold, many educators, families, and leaders will seek guidance, understanding, and clarity on these issues. EdSurge will be here to cover these changes and put them in context.
Expand our coverage
Two years ago, our editorial team received support from Imaginable Futures to expand its coverage into early childhood education, with a particular focus on the workforce, a group that is predominantly female and disproportionately black women. It was a natural next step for us, as we had been dealing with K-12 and higher education for years. But perhaps most important has been that, as is true in the public sphere, coverage of early childhood in the media has historically lacked the attention and resources that are offered to education at other levels. We wanted to change it.
After all, early childhood marks the most critical developmental stage in a person’s life, according to brain science and evidence from numerous longitudinal studies. And it is a developmental period in which, if children are adequately fed, stimulated and involved, many parts – individuals, families and entire communities; local, state and national governments; entire economic sectors – to be gained.
Ever since we started reporting on the early years – increasingly defined as birth to age 8 – that coverage has become essential to what we do and who we are as a news organization, so much so that we have has won awards for our report, spoken on panels on topics, and has otherwise been recognized as a place that tells true stories about early childhood education, with all its nuances and complexities.
Now, we’re not just continuing to focus, but doubling down.
With renewed support from Imaginable Futures, we will expand our early childhood coverage beyond the workforce to include early learning science, policy changes ahead, pathways to teacher credentials and preparation, investment in the field and more. We will cover what works and why, but also what is broken and how it can be fixed.
Early childhood coverage has become an integral part of what we do here at EdSurge ever since we first walked in. We will increase our coverage in the coming years, following emerging policies and research, bringing the most pressing issues back to the field, and learning from the early childhood educators who do this work every day.
We want to hear directly from early childhood educators of all types, including assistant teachers, mentors, program directors, and other related roles. We also want to hear from families, researchers, advocates, policy makers and other parties who have a unique perspective, insight or experience to share.
We encourage you to reach out and share your thoughts, be a source for a story or to let us know if you’d like to pitch your idea. EdSurge is currently accept pitches from early childhood educators about their experiences in the field, especially how their roles and working lives are changing. EdSurge has editors on staff who would like to work with you to write a first-person essay on your experiences and observations in the field.
Please contact by email [email protected] or by contacting me, an EdSurge senior reporter covering early childhood education, a [email protected]. And if you are an early childhood educator with a story to tell, please launch your story here.
As policies, practices and public perception of early childhood education evolve, we are thrilled to be here to tell the stories of real people and communities who are directly affected. Join us or follow as we do.