Are Pre-K Teachers Paid Enough?

We’ve noted in an earlier post that there is support among preschool and K-3 teachers for unifying the system of early childhood education. One concern that preschool teachers particularly noted in regard to their working conditions was their low pay, and teachers in both groups think that a unified credentialing and preparation system would lead to higher wages across the board.

An Urban Institute study adds a useful data point to the discussion of preschool vs. K-3 teacher pay. “In a new report and fact sheet on compensation of early childhood educators in the Washington, DC, region, … [Urban Institute researchers found] that early childhood educators have lower average hourly wages ($15.25) than even entry-level public school kindergarten teachers with no previous experience ($27.36), an overall gap of $12.11 per hour.” The study further finds that preschool teachers of color earn even less than their white counterparts.

Chart showing pay disparities

The authors note:

Early childhood is a critical time of development, laying the foundation for skills, behaviors, and health in adulthood. High-quality early learning experiences depend on having a stable, effective workforce of early childhood educators. Educators who work with young children in programs in child care centers, family child care, and schools play an indispensable role in shaping the quality of care and early learning children receive.

As we discuss in our report, research suggests that improved compensation would allow early childhood programs to recruit and retain a more skilled workforce, boosting the quality of early learning and leading to better developmental outcomes for children.

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