COVID-19, health disparities, and the ongoing killings of black people have highlighted decades of pain and injustice against people of color in general and African Americans in particular. These issues are undeniably linked to our nation’s long history of racism. So too are the structures in which early childhood educators are expected to work.
In too many instances we have paid for high-quality early care and education (ECE) programming on the backs of black and brown women. We have asked them to love, protect, and educate other people’s children while their own families live in poverty and under often debilitating conditions of stress.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has further decimated their lives and livelihoods and put their health and employment at risk. Payroll protection and small business loans went to others with credit and connections deemed acceptable. Today, they have no more to give, nor should they be asked to do so until society ensures that they receive what is due to them.
ECE researchers have been collecting a solid body of evidence on the status of the ECE workforce for decades. Nearly half of early educators earn poverty-level wages that must often be supplemented by public assistance, and 40% are women of color who typically earn less than their peers (Center for the Study of Child Care Employment).
The current status of the ECE workforce includes unlivable wages and benefits, disrespect and failure to be recognized as professionals, inadequate access to high-quality educator preparation, and a dearth of meaningful ongoing professional learning. These realities are rooted in institutional racism which denies access, compensation, and professional advancement.
The conditions under which these educators work and the devastating impact those conditions have had on the educators, their families, and the children they serve have long been known. We will do nothing to further perpetuate an unjust and broken patchwork of ECE services. We must build a coherent and equitable system that works for young children, their families and the educators who serve them.
On behalf of all children, we are dedicating the Foundation for Child Development to do even more to ensure that early educators receive the respect, professional preparation, and compensation that reflect the highly valuable work they do. Join us in doing the right thing for those who are among the first to do right by our children.