By Sarah Ann Kotchian
This morning, I had the opportunity to attend the release of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute’s, Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Survey: A Focus on Providers and Teachers findings and panel discussion.The findings from the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Survey affirm that the compensation of early childhood caregivers and teachers does not even come close to meeting their educational attainment, experience, and commitment to our youngest children.
If we want more for our children, we must all do more for their early childhood teachers.
The findings reveal that overall, early childhood caregivers and teachers do not consistently receive livable wages, employer-sponsored benefits, and some must rely on public assistance and second jobs. Moreover, teachers in all settings report symptoms of stress and depression, a lack of diversity exists among teaching staff, and not all teachers feel well-prepared to teach at the beginning of the career. And yet, on average, teachers tend to have considerable experience and commitment in the field amounting to 12 years or more. Some educators are simply called to serve our youngest children despite the known sacrifices, and their hard work in laying the foundation for our future citizens is to be lauded, not labeled as “glorified babysitting.” Whoever thinks this has in my estimation never spent time alone in a classroom of young children or been introduced to what high quality early childhood education looks like and means for our future citizenry and economy.
Following a presentation of the Nebraska specific survey findings from Dr. Meisels, we had what is far too often a rare opportunity to hear from a panel of professionals who have 78 years of combined experience in education and early childhood education across Nebraska. They added personal depth and a palpable passion for their profession to the complex and long-standing findings from the survey. In the words of the owner and director at Element Learning Center, Thelma Sims, “Early childhood education needs to be given gold-plated status, not tarnished down on the shelf.”
As I continue to serve on the Buffett Early Childhood Institute’s Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission, I find this newest survey to be of immeasurable value in making the case and creating the roadmap for positive change for the early childhood workforce. The solutions are clear, but the pathway will take all of us taking the time to talk with one another in our communities about the importance of the work, and the intellectual rigor and emotional endurance required if we are to achieve the inspirational vision of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute to make Nebraska the best state in the nation to be a baby.
Sarah Ann Kotchian is the Vice President of Public Policy for Holland Children's Movement.