From birth to age 5, children’s brains grow and develop at a rate unmatched later in life. Research shows this critical window of brain development lays the foundation for all future learning and development.
Positive, attentive and nurturing relationships with their parents and nonparental caregivers are essential to establishing a strong developmental foundation and setting children up for success in school and beyond.
Children under the age of 5 spend more than 30 hours a week with nonparental caregivers, in center- and home-based child care, preschool classrooms, and informal arrangements with family, friends or neighbors. Researchers have found that young children enrolled in high-quality early learning opportunities can reap short- and long-term benefits including: improved literacy and numeracy skills; healthy social and emotional development; decreased enrollment in special education; and higher grade retention and graduation rates.
Attributes of high-quality early learning settings typically include licensure and accreditation, low staff-child ratios and strong parent engagement, among others. Researchers underscore that the professionals who provide care and educate young children are the linchpin to quality and better outcomes.
Early care and education professionals are sometimes referred to as “the workforce behind the workforce,” because reliable child care enables parents to work, attend school or other job training opportunities. Yet, in many communities and states, the demand for child care outweighs supply. Many factors contribute to this shortage, including a lack of qualified and supported early care and education professionals. Along with parents, employers and local policymakers, state legislators across the country are working to address these challenges.
Who Are Early Care and Education Professionals?
There are nearly 5 million early care and education professionals in the United States. These professionals meet children’s most basic needs (e.g., diapering and feeding) implement age-appropriate curriculum and support children’s social, emotional and cognitive development. Home-based care providers, who total 3.8 million professionals, make up the majority of the early care and education workforce. Many home-based providers are also small-business owners and must manage the responsibilities that come with running a business (e.g., banking, purchasing supplies and cleaning) in addition to their caretaking duties.
Although many early care and education professionals have extensive experience (approximately 50% have at least 13 years in the field), they generally earn very low wages. The average wage for early care and education professionals is less than $11 an hour, or just over $22,000 per year. The highest earners are typically prekindergarten teachers in school-based classrooms and the lowest are professionals caring for infants and toddlers. Their working conditions vary by setting and do not necessarily include benefits that are typically available to educators of older children, such as paid time for planning and professional development, retirement and health insurance.
The predominately female (94%) early care and education workforce is more racially and linguistically diverse than K-12 teachers. People of color comprise 40% of early care and education professionals, and 22% are foreign born.
How Are State Policymakers Involved?
How are state policymakers involved in supporting early care and education professionals?
Each year, state legislatures consider legislation to improve the quality and increase access to early learning opportunities in their states. Increasingly, legislators are focusing their efforts on improving the early care and education workforce. Legislation to build a well-qualified and supported early care and education workforce often focuses on the following aspects of workforce development:
- Training, education and professional development.
- Compensation and financial incentives.
States That Have Enacted ECE Workforce Legislation in 2019
Select the purple states on the map to view details about the workforce legislation.
HB 1005 | Provides an income tax credit to eligible early childhood educators who hold certain credentials and are employed in qualifying early care and education programs.
SB 932 | Extends the dates of the staff qualifications requirement for early childhood educators. Stipulates that staff qualification requirements are only for classrooms receiving state funds.
SB 935 | Requires the Office of Early Childhood to develop an early childhood educator compensation schedule and for early childhood program providers to implement such compensation schedule.
HB 1027 | Requires the Office of Early Learning to develop training and course standards, and career pathways with stackable credentials and certifications for early learning professionals.
HR 416 | Urges the General Assembly to address the early childhood education workforce crisis by modernizing funding and teacher qualification standards; urges the governor to include early childhood educators on several relevant advisory councils.
HB 35 | Adds qualifying early childhood programs to the list of eligible and “hard to staff” schools that can benefit from grant funding through the Grow Your Own Teacher Education Act.
SB 1952 | Allows teachers seeking an early childhood education endorsement under the professional educator license to satisfy the student teaching requirement in a setting with children from birth through second grade; allows teachers to be paid and receive credit while student teaching.
HR 133 | Recognizes May 10, 2019, as Child Care Provider Appreciation Day in the state.
LB 590 | Requires the use of the state early childhood professional record system for documentation and verification of staff training to assist parents in selecting optimal care settings and to verify minimum training requirements of employees of such programs.
H 275 | Prioritizes teachers who are endorsed and teach early childhood education in public schools for loan repayment under the state’s teacher loan repayment program.
HB 680 | Requires local workforce development boards to ensure child care development funds expended on professional development for child care providers can be put towards a credential, certification or degree and meet professional development requirements set by the Texas Rising Star Program. Adds additional considerations to the annual evaluation of the distribution of federal child care development funds (CCDF) conducted by the Texas Workforce Commission.
HB 1344 |Requires the child care collaborative task force to evaluate and make recommendations related to early educator pay scales, pay parity with K-12 educators and policies to support racial and ethnic equity and diversity in the child care workforce.
HB 1391 |Increases funding for needs-based grants, scholarships, and professional development assistance to child care providers. Improves access coaching and raises base subsidy reimbursement rates for licensed child care centers and family homes.