Highly educated… undercompensated

It has been my privilege to serve Wisconsin Early Childhood Association for the past 14 years. Our organization works to promote the critical importance of the child care profession and strengthen investments in the teachers who provide vital care and education to children from over 72% of Wisconsin’s families each day.

Child care professionals struggle against common misperceptions of their work.  Over time, I have heard variations on the following theme: “Child care providers are really just babysitters, aren’t they? Therefore, their compensation seems right in line, yes?”

Well, no.

In early July Wisconsin Early Childhood Association released a comprehensive study of early childhood teachers in Wisconsin. (Our last study was in 2010). The findings will make for some very different conversations.

Take for example the education level of child care teachers. More than half – 52% – have an Associate degree or higher. This is more than the Wisconsin workforce in general in which 42% hold an Associate degree or higher.2  The education level of child care teachers has a considerable effect on the quality of teaching and on outcomes for our youngest children. Higher education at even greater levels for the early childhood profession is essential.
College graduateYet, there’s an unexplained pay gap. Wisconsinites with an Associate degree who work in fields other than early care and education can expect to earn $18/hour on average. However, degree-holders in early care and education can expect pay which averages $10/hour.  Annualized, child care teachers earn $17,000 less than other Wisconsinites with an Associates degree. The gap grows wider when comparing those in the field who hold a Bachelor’s degree  – $12/hour – versus those who hold that degree and work in another field – $22.80/hour. Annually, the child care teacher with the Bachelor’s degree earns fully $22,500 LESS.

Often I hear, “Well child care teachers don’t go into the field for money. They do the work because they love children.”  It’s a perception not unique to Wisconsin. A recent article in the New York Times described a conversation between a child care provider in New Mexico and a legislator she visited at the state Capitol to lobby for education funding:

“She remembered meeting with a senator who told her, ‘You don’t get into this for the money; you’re paid in love.’ ‘Really?’ she replied. ‘When my landlord comes, can I just give him a hug?’

  1. COWS, State of Working Wisconsin 2014 http://www.cows.org

Ruth Schmidt is Executive Director of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association and a registered lobbyist.

Higher Education Entry through Credit for Prior Learning

Research has found that the credit-based education of child care providers is an important factor linked with high-quality early education programs. Unfortunately, with high turnover, low compensation, and increasing higher education costs, it is difficult for the early education workforce to gain these credits.

In a recent paper by Wisconsin Early Childhood Association and Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, entitled Milestones: Advancements to Pathways for Early Childhood Higher Education, the option of credit for prior learning is discussed as one way to:

  • Recognize all the non-credit training and experience that early childhood providers already have!
  • Begin on a pathway of achieving more credits, or degrees, at a Wisconsin college
  • Have a clear starting point when considering credit-based education

Read the full paper here and keep checking our blog to learn about the progress that WI technical colleges are making in terms of what credit for prior learning options they will offer to providers!

Child Care Wellness Grant Opportunity- Group Child Care Programs

Wisconsin Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Child Care Wellness Sub-grants are now available and will be awarded to CACFP child care institutions (child care group centers, emergency shelters, at-risk sites, outside of school hours sites) through a competitive application process. Grant applications will be accepted until July 21, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. This grant opportunity is available through the WI Department of Public Instruction.

Want to learn more about the WI CACFP Child Care Wellness Sub-grant opportunities? Click here  to find the:

  • Grant Announcement Letter
  • Grant Application Form
  • Grant Application Instructional Guide
  • Other helpful resources to assist in the application process

Note: Wellness Sub-grant opportunities for family child care programs will be announced separately by the Wisconsin CACFP Sponsors Forum in the near future. If you are affiliated with a family child care program, keep checking back to our blog to find out when this opportunity is available (or call your CACFP Sponsor for more information).

Let’s Move! Child Care has Launched

Last week came the announcement of the “Let’s Move! Child Care” initiative, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama. Click here for more information about the initiative, ideas and resources for early educators, healthy eating tips, and physical activities for infants and toddlers!

The initiative has set the following five goals for all caregivers (parents, guardians, child care providers, etc) to strive towards:

  • Physical Activity: Provide 1-2 hours of physical activity throughout the day, including outside play when possible.
  • Screen Time: No screen time for children under two years.  For children age two and older, strive to limit screen time to no more than 30 minutes per week during child care, and no more than 1-2 hours total of quality screen time per day, the amount recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Food: Serve fruits or vegetables at every meal, eat meals family-style when possible, and no fried foods.
  • Beverages: Provide access to water during meals and throughout the day, and do not serve sugary drinks.  For children age two and older, serve low-fat (1%) or non-fat milk, and no more than one 4-6 ounce serving of 100% juice per day.
  • Infant feeding:  For mothers who want to continue breastfeeding, provide their milk to their infants and welcome them to breastfeed during the child care day; and support all new parents in their decisions about infant feeding.

Internet Access Grant Opportunity- City of Milwaukee Child Care Programs!

The Public Service Commission (Commission) of Wisconsin has awarded a grant to the Celebrate Children Foundation (CCF) to help fund internet connectivity to child care centers in the city of Milwaukee. CCF will reimburse programs for internet expenses so that programs have more money to purchase things like curriculum materials, teacher training, and healthy food for children.

CCF would like to support 70 programs with this grant with up to $50 per month. To qualify, a child care center must:

    1. Serve low-income children &/or families in Milwaukee,
    2. Participate in YoungStar, the state’s new quality rating and improvement system,
    3. Provide copies of their Internet provider receipts (in six month increments),
    4. Adhere to all grant deadlines, and
    5. Be willing to respond to a post-grant survey.

Grant applications are due to CCF by June 30, 2011. Please visit their website for more information on this opportunity, as well as application instructions.

YoungStar Training is Here!

Training designed to help you prepare to be rated for YoungStar, or for anyone wishing to learn ways to improve the quality of your child care program.
WECA MIlwaukee is sponsoring trainings on…
• YoungStar Overviews to get you started
• Wisconsin Model Early Learning (WMELS)
• SEFEL Pyramid Model for Developmental Social Emotional Competence
• Family Involvement
• Child Outcomes, Portfolios and Curriculum
• Environment Rating Scales
• Business Practices
• Click here to learn more and to register for a WECA Milwaukee YoungStar training!

Not in the Milwaukee area? Click here for a listing of available YoungStar trainings statewide- all organized by members of the YoungStar consortium.


YoungStar Applications due in Three Weeks!

If you are a child care program that currently receives reimbursements through the Wisconsin Shares program, you must apply to participate in YoungStar BY JUNE 1ST, 2011 in order to continue to receive these reimbursements without interruption. Your regional office must receive the application by this date, so don’t forget to leave time for mail processing if you choose to mail your application in.

How do I apply?
DCF has just revised their YoungStar website with simple, easy to follow instructions on applying for YoungStar. Find the four step application process here!

What can I do after I apply?
If you chose to have someone come out to rate your program, you will be assigned a YoungStar adviser who will contact you in the future to set up an appointment. While you wait for this initial contact, there are several things you can do to prepare:

Step 1: Consider attending a YoungStar orientation training
If you are just learning about YoungStar, and want to know more, attend a YoungStar orientation session to find out details on ratings, support for programs, and micro-grants. Find training in your area!

Step 2: Get your information on The Registry
In order to earn 3 or more stars in YoungStar, your program must meet certain education levels (what education levels do I need for each level?). This education is ONLY verified through The Registry- so if your program isn’t on The Registry, we won’t be able to check this information.
* Actions for Group Child Care: Ensure that all Lead Teachers and the Center Director qualifications are current and accurately reflected by The Registry Career Level assigned. See instructions for individuals to do this below.
* Actions for Family Child Care: Ensure that the primary caregiver qualifications are current and accurately reflected by The Registry Career Level assigned. If the owner is not the primary caregiver/teacher, then the qualifications of the primary caregiver/teacher are evaluated for purposes of YoungStar. See instructions for individuals to do this below.
* Actions for Administrators/Owners of Group and Family Child Care Programs: Create or update a Registry Program Profile within The Registry. Learn how to do this with instructions below.
* Instructions for individuals to get started in The Registry and receive a Registry Career Level.
* Instructions for creating a Registry program profile.

Step 3: Consider completing your own assessment of your program’s quality
In order to earn 3 or more stars in YoungStar, your program must complete a self-assessment.
* Your program can complete this assessment before a YoungStar staff member comes out to your program. This will give you the opportunity to point out what’s going well in your program already and what could be going better.
* Your program can also choose to complete a self-assessment with assistance from a YoungStar technical assistant.
* If you would like to complete or begin a self-assessment, we recommend you choose this tool for group programs and this tool for family programs.

Step 4: Consider creating a quality improvement plan for your program, highlighting where you think your program is doing well and where it needs improvement
In order to earn 3 or more stars in YoungStar, your program must complete a quality improvement plan, based on your self-assessment.
* Your program can complete this quality improvement plan before a YoungStar staff member comes out to your program. This will give you the opportunity to create your own plan for improving quality in your program.
* Your program can also choose to complete a quality improvement plan with a YoungStar technical assistant.
* If you would like to complete or begin a quality improvement plan without assistance from YoungStar staff, download an example to use.

Step 5: Familiarize yourself with the tools YoungStar staff will be using
Learn about what YoungStar staff will be using when they rate your program.
* Information for Group child care programs.
* Information for Family child care programs.

Happy Provider Appreciation Day!

In honor of provider appreciation day today, May 6th, the Governor has signed a proclamation acknowledging all the hard work early childhood professionals do every day in Wisconsin. There will also be a public service announcement running on radio stations across the state with the following message:

Child. Care.
Two words that, because of you, are inseparable.
We put our most precious gifts in your hands, day in and day out.
And for the children we entrust to you, every one of those days is filled with new adventures, new
insights, and the teachings that will take them to tomorrow.
Which brings us to the two words you don’t hear enough.
Thank. You.

On behalf of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association we would like to thank all the early childhood professionals across the state for all that they do for our youngest Wisconsinites. If you have a child in an early education setting, make sure to take a minute today to also say thank you!

Happy Week of the Young Child 2011!

All across the nation, child care and early education programs, parents, and advocates are celebrating the Week of the Young Child. This week, designated by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), is a time to celebrate the joy of young children in our lives, focus public attention on their needs, and honor the importance of the people and programs that care for and educate them.

View a listing of events and activities that are taking place this week in Wisconsin here!

For early education professionals
For this one week we invite you to focus on the positives in this profession:
• Identify the aspects of your program that you believe demonstrate quality and celebrate them.
• Engage in self reflection: What brought you to this work? What keeps you here? How is your work making a difference in the lives of children and families with whom you build community?
• Share some of your positive energy with others! Express appreciation to those you work with; plan a special FUN project with the kids; bring families into your celebrations; get involved in a community WOYC activity with friends and colleagues…
• Re-commit to making this a better profession by engaging in one advocacy activity.
• Set aside this week your anxieties about what lies ahead in terms of implementation of YoungStar and whether or not you’ll have the resources to do what it takes to meet your goals. We’ll work on this together over the coming year; we’ll celebrate successes and confront barriers together.

For parents: What you should know about early educators

• It takes more than good intentions to provide good care; young children count on their caregivers to understand their development, provide playful learning opportunities, establish trusting relationships, and keep them safe.
• The early learning experiences offered to your child now can lay the foundation for future success in school and beyond. Research shows that the education and retention of early childhood educators influences the quality of care offered to your child.
• Child care is among the lowest paid jobs in our country. Low wages contribute to high turnover of staff and lower quality care.
• Take time now and throughout the year to appreciate your child’s teacher(s).