Child Care teachers seek "Worthy Wages"
March 1998

Did you know that childcare is the lowest paid occupation in our country? Lower paid than janitorial work, lower paid than food service. Low compensation and poor working conditions, according to the Alachua County Childcare Teachers Association (ACCTA), leads to high staff turnover and has a negative impact on the teachers and the students. Many childcare teachers cannot afford to continue to work in childcare, and many who stay have to take a second job to make ends meet.

To get a sense of the dimensions of the problem, ACCTA conducted a survey of childcare teachers in 1997, and the results will be presented on Saturday, March 21, at the Excellence in Early Childhood Conference held at the Reitz Union at UF.

The survey asked over 500 childcare teachers about wages, working conditions, benefits, and what they would like to see change in childcare. It was modeled after the 1995 Seattle Standards Project, which established that there is a severe crisis in the wages and working conditions of the childcare workforce. Summing up the national problem, Marci Whitebrook of the Center for the Childhood Workforce states, "Parents can't afford to pay, teachers can't afford to stay. There has to be a better way."

Through the Alachua County survey, childcare teachers will establish standards for wages, benefits, working conditions, and education. "We believe that this is a first step towards ending the high childcare staff turnover rate that is hurting teachers and the children they care for." ACCTA states in an announcement for the event. ACCTA notes that low compensation of childcare teachers is not a result of having less education, since childcare workers are more educated than the average worker.

Only 30% of childcare teachers nationally receive any kind of job benefits, and about 1/3 of childcare teachers leave their centers every year. ACCTA spokesperson Francie Hunt states, "Due to the recent welfare reforms, there will be an increase in the need for quality childcare." According to the Center for the Child Care Workforce, high teacher turnover rate in childcare negatively affects the quality of services children receive, and children who attend centers with a high staff turnover rate have been shown to have less language and social skill development.

ACCTA is also making preparations for Worthy Wage Day, to be held on May 1, a national day of action for child care coordinated by the Center for the Child Care Workforce. There is a planning meeting on Saturday, April 4, at the Downtown Library at 10:30 a.m. Their invitation states: "If you are a childcare teacher or provider, come talk about the complexity and challenge of the work, the level of commitment and training you've put into it, and what you need in order to stay and grow in this under-rewarded profession. If you are a director, tell what a struggle it is to find and retain good staff, because you can't pay them what workers earn in many other types of comparable jobs. If you are a parent, tell how quality childcare--including decent wages for teachers and providers--costs more than you can afford to pay, and how the whole system needs greater financial resources." For more information, call Francie Hunt at (352) 466-4162 or Jen Sunderland at (352) 378-5580. To reach the Center for the Childcare Workforce, call 1-800-U-R-Worthy.

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