Recently our organization released a study on the child care workforce in Wisconsin. Funded by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, the University of Wisconsin-Madison – COWS and the UW-Survey Center – conducted the research.
The findings point to growing financial stress on child care teachers, and suggest adverse effects on the young children in their care. For example, due to poverty-level wages, more than a third of child care teachers leave their jobs every year, disrupting the quality of care children need in their most formative years.
If our goal is to ensure high quality care for children, this high rate of turnover is unacceptable. Research confirms that young children require established relationships with trusting adults in order to thrive. A disproportionate percentage of child care teaching staff leave within the first two years of employment. Wages make a difference when it comes to turnover; lower paying child care programs have higher turnover of staff.
For over 15 years, two federally-funded programs administered by WECA have had a positive impact on the wages, education, retention and turnover of early childhood education teachers: 1) the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program and 2) the REWARD Stipend Program.
T.E.A.C.H. is a comprehensive scholarship program available to those already working in the child care field and pays most of the costs of pursuing higher education credits in Early Childhood Education. Scholarship recipients receive a financial bonus from T.E.A.C.H. and a bonus or raise from their employer upon completion of their contract. They are required to then stay in the field a set length of time, thus raising the educational bar and improving teacher retention. REWARD aims to keep well-educated individuals in their jobs by providing monetary rewards based on one’s education level and career longevity. Notably, the turnover rate of T.E.A.C.H. and REWARD participants is significantly less than the child care workforce as a whole.
While T.E.A.C.H. and REWARD are vital solutions we know they don’t solve the entire problem. The release of the report and our insights and recommendations form the base of outreach WECA is doing statewide to engage multiple stakeholders in finding an enduring solution.
Stay tuned for more on this topic!
Jeanette A. Paulson
Director of Workforce Initiatives
Wisconsin Early Childhood Association