Teacher turnover in child care stresses young children

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.

90865864If 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.

Existing solutions
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.

Moving forward
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

Thanks to all who’ve responded to “the missing link” posting.

Thanks to all who’ve responded to “missing link” posting. It has sparked lively discussion. Despite a variety of perspectives, it’s important to name the common goal we all share:  We all strive for quality because we value children, their families, and the important work we do.  So, let’s keep the dialog open and let’s explore solutions to challenges, but let’s also celebrate the tremendous gains we have made to improve child care quality.

A few highlights:


  • 3 out of 4 family child care providers in Wisconsin participate in a Food Program – funded by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  WECA alone processes almost $400,000 in claims monthly.


  • Annually, Wisconsin allocates $4M to T.E.A.C.H. scholarships that provide accessible and affordable education for child care providers and to REWARD stipends.
  • 1,100 child care providers participate in T.E.A.C.H. and 84% of them work in 2 and 3 star programs.  Last year 1,612 providers received REWARD stipends.


  • With YoungStar funding, over 3,000 Micro-Grants have been awarded – a $2.2M commitment to materials and resources for quality improvement within child care settings.
  • To date almost 15,000 on-site technical consulting visits were made to over 4,000 child care programs, and 1,500 hours of training has been provided.
  • 3,065 programs have been contacted by the Professional Development Counseling service, including all 2-star programs in Milwaukee. The service is offered free of charge.

Wisconsin’s children deserve the best possible start through quality early care. Thank you for your commitment to Wisconsin’s children.