Poverty wages keep childcare workers in “severe economic shackles”

The California childcare crisis dates back decades, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious damage. According to a new report from the Child Care Employment Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley, this system has chronically relied on “poverty and wage payments close to poverty levels.” Credits: Ana Fox-Hodess / UC Berkeley

Child care providers and teachers in California earn very low wages, so many need government support to achieve their goals. The conditions are so harsh that “dramatic reforms” are needed to support them and stabilize the overall child care system. study.

Among nearly 8000 Childcare Median wages are below or near federal poverty levels, according to staff surveyed in 2020. Report From the Child Care Employment Research Center (CCSCE) at Berkeley. About one-third reported that they were enrolled in Medi-Cal or other forms of public assistance, and similar proportions reported basic food insecurity.

Early educators (mainly colored women and immigrant women) suffer from “severe financial restraints” due to low public investment in California, according to a new study. Child care system.

this Financial stress Exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, low-wage educators are even less credible. This stress is reflected in the lack of childcare services for working families, which poses a risk to the California economy, said Lee Austin, director of CSCCE. There are at least one million children on the funded childcare waiting list.

“We need a long-term solution to ensure the financial well-being of early educators,” Austin said in an interview. “Without it, parents will continue to struggle to find the quality parenting they need.”

“The economy doesn’t work without childcare,” Austin added. “And childcare doesn’t work without a teacher.”

One of the early childhood educators cited in the report is an immigrant with a bachelor’s degree from his home country in Asia and extensive training in early childhood education. But even after she worked in a California center for five years, she earns only $ 15 an hour. That’s just over $ 30,000 a year, excluding tax.

“This profession certainly needs education to provide quality care, but it doesn’t seem to be fully respected in terms of salary,” she told Berkeley researchers. “Even though I work full-time 40 hours a week, my annual salary is still below poverty level.”

“The Forgotten Ones — The Financial Happiness of Early Educators in COVID-19” is based on the largest study of California child care providers and teachers in 15 years. It provides annoying insights into situations affecting approximately 140,000 child care providers, teachers and managers working in California’s child care centers and family home-based care programs.

The new report was investigated and written by Austin. CSCCE analysts Anna Powell, Elena Montoya, Yoonjeon Kim, Abby Copeman Petig; consultant Raul Chavez.

It highlights the dire conclusions that emerged almost two years ago. Another CSCCE report How COVID-19 closed hundreds of California child care centers and endangered countless others.

Childcare system based on poverty level wages

Today’s crisis dates back decades, but a new report states that California’s childcare system is “dependent on poverty and near-poverty-level wage payments.” The impact on nursery teachers, nurseries and centers is enormous.

  • Median wages for nursery teachers in California in 2019 were $ 13.43 per hour, while preschool teachers earned $ 16.83 per hour. However, by comparison, kindergarten teachers earned $ 41.86 per hour, which was still slightly above the living wages of a single parent in California with one child.
  • In the first year of the pandemic, more than 40% of family care providers and nearly one-third of center-based teachers were enrolled in public assistance programs such as Medi-Cal and food aid. ..
  • About one-third of early childhood teachers experienced food insecurity because they did not have enough food to eat or lacked quality and nutritious food. The prevalence of food insecurity increased to 39% for colored women and to 42% for immigrant educators.
  • Almost one in three family care providers in the early months of the pandemic was behind in paying the rent or mortgage for the house they care for.

The report found that the pandemic had otherwise dramatically exacerbated the stress on early care and education professionals. Some providers shut down operations temporarily or permanently. The worker was dismissed and dismissed. After the pandemic in 2020, 40% of family care providers and one-third of center teachers in the state applied for unemployment.

Due to the reduced staff, some educators had to spend more time. Meanwhile, 43% of those who run a daycare center at home say they couldn’t pay their 2020 salary.

According to the report, black educators were much more likely to experience such negative business consequences.

“It’s no wonder that the program is understaffed and many are closed, which means families can’t find the childcare they need,” Austin said. “There is already a shortage before the pandemic, and the remaining people are exposed to incredible financial, emotional, and physical stress.”

Importance of long-term public funding for childcare

However, research shows that federal headstart or California State Kindergarten-funded centers were better protected from the negative effects of COVID. Policy makers in Washington, DC and Sacramento have taken steps to protect the center from dramatic loss of income. And researchers found that 90% of the managers and staff at these centers were able to pay the program’s rent and themselves without problems and did not have to borrow to cover the costs. ..

It said the author points out “fundamental reforms” that can address the economic disparities between different types of providers and those with and without public funding.

They write that one of the priorities for policy makers is to establish a contract-based model with state and federal funding for both centers and home providers. This is similar to how headstart and state preschool funds are currently being distributed.

They urged policy makers to set a minimum wage for early California educators based on local living costs and taking into account the education and experience of workers. They said the ideal goal was to be on par with kindergarten and elementary school teachers. CSCCE has found that the majority of early childhood educators in the state have a college degree.

Policy makers also need to develop solutions to end inequality that harms colored women and migrants in the areas of infant care and education.

Without such a solution, Berkeley’s report warned that the pandemic damage to California’s childcare system could be permanent. Some daycare facilities that were closed during the pandemic may not be reopened, and younger childcare professionals may leave the field for work that pays a living wage.

“You can’t blame people for getting a job with better wages and health insurance and not returning to childcare,” Austin said. “If we cannot stabilize and support the early care and education workforce, we will not have good and stable child care. The problem will not be solved until we intervene in public resources.”

Expectations for a pandemic easing have been cautiously raised, “I just want to work little by little and recover my life,” said one care provider interviewed for the report. “With our provider, and even loan support, it would be great if we could pay a mortgage and maintain a home.

“I really like working with my kids, so I don’t have to close and look for another job.”

Researchers have found that childcare in Illinois has been successful with state support in the turmoil of COVID-19.

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Poverty wages keep childcare workers in “severe economic shackles”

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