Investing in New Systems for Paying Educators What They Need and Deserve - Early Learning Nation

Investing in New Systems for Paying Educators What They Need and Deserve

New Grant Opportunity Deadline May 1, 2023

For U.S. children to realize their potential, the professionals who care and educate them need the training, respect and compensation that make for a fulfilling career. The Early Educator Investment Collaborative is dedicated to promising and innovative ways to make that happen.

ELN spoke about the newest funding opportunity with Dr. Ola J. Friday, director of The Collaborative, which includes the Ballmer Group, the Bezos Family Foundation, Buffett Early Childhood Fund, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Foundation for Child Development, Gates Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation and Stranahan Foundation.

👉 View the request for proposals and apply by May 1

Mark Swartz: How much is The Collaborative investing in boosting salaries and benefits of lead teachers and other early childhood education (ECE) professionals?

Dr. Ola J. Friday: The total funding will be approximately $10 million over up to three years. The amount depends on the need being met and where the project is in the development process.

Swartz: How is this round of grants different from The Collaborative’s 2021 investments, which focused on eliminating structural inequities in the preparation of the ECE workforce?

Friday: Whereas the initial investments promoted teacher preparation, this time we’re looking to give educators a raise. In the RFP, we quote the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment’s 2020 Workforce Index: “The average wage of $13.31/hour for early educators in birth through age five settings undermines their quality and diminishes the benefits to children, families, and our economy.

Additionally, compared with their K-8 colleagues, early educators face poverty rates on average of 7.7 times higher.” Too many teachers are leaving the field, just when we need them most. Also, low wages deter new practitioners from wanting to do this work. Ultimately, women, and disproportionately women of color, are kept in poverty wages and families experience a lack of continuity of care for their children.  As a society, we have to do something.

Swartz: What’s the solution to these wage challenges?

Friday: As Dr. Sara Vecchiotti, vice president at the Foundation for Child Development, recently told Kathryn Shibuya of the National League of Cities, “For too long, ECE financing of programs within fragmented public and private systems has not supported the true and fair cost of high-quality ECE.”

By funding innovations in financial systems and by working with government partners, The Collaborative hopes to support long term increases of compensation for the ECE workforce. The partners can be state, local, municipal, territory or tribal governments. Eligible projects must include both the administer of child care funding and the budget person.

We call out this partnership because too often we’ve seen the lack of coordination among the fiscal leadership and the program leadership as an obstacle to leveraging all the funding that may be possible to support ECE efforts, including workforce compensation.

👉 Register for webinars on the Collaborative’s Compensation Capacity-Building Grants

Swartz: That might be two people who work in the same office building but have never sat down together.

Friday: Exactly, and they come to that meeting with two very different kinds of expertise. The education program administrator will know about things like curricula, social-emotional learning and licensing. The budget officer will know how to pool various funding streams, which could be, for example, the typical Child Care and Development Block or Title I grants. They’ll put their heads together to figure out innovative ways to drive more resources towards ECE financing and long term compensation increases, not only short term fixes.

Swartz: What about just handing out bonus money?

Friday: With a bonus, one dollar gets you one dollar, and then it’s gone. It can be very short term. Financial systems that leverage existing sources of revenue, both typical and atypical funding streams, and promote new sources of revenue, on the other hand, can support sustainability over the long term. Those are the solutions we’re excited about.

Swartz: What else is new or different about this funding opportunity?

Friday: ECE professionals don’t always get to be there when important systems and financial decisions are made. That’s why we’re requiring an advisory body made up of workforce members, and they will play an active role in project design and implementation.

Swartz: How did The Collaborative arrive at this approach for supporting educators?

Friday: We spent last year doing research and learning from the field, including speaking to system administrators, practitioners and ECE finance experts. We heard too many stories of agencies operating in siloes, and funding that isn’t fully leveraged. Governments are leaving money on the table. This is an opportunity to use fiscal expertise to leverage program expertise.

Swartz: Where does that fiscal expertise come from?

Friday: Sometimes it’s already there, and all we need to do is get the experts to sit down together. Too often, however, the fiscal expertise is outsourced, which means the knowledge walks out the door when the project is over. Just as we have an educator shortage, we have a shortage of people who understand ECE financing and budgets and can use their skills to build systems. One of them said to me, “There aren’t enough of us.” We need to build that internal capacity. I heard that message loud and clear.

Early Learning Nation columnist Mark Swartz writes for and about nonprofit organizations. Author of the children's books Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, Lost Flamingo, Magpie Bridge and The Giant of the Flood as well as a few novels, he lives in Takoma Park, MD, with his wife and two children.

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