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Poll: Voters Support Higher Pay for Early Educators

By Lillian Mongeau — December 04, 2015 2 min read
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Sixty-one percent of voters think early-childhood educators are paid too little, according to a poll of 950 likely voters commissioned by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a non-profit supporting early educators.

Voters were also asked about their willingness to support public investments in early education as part of the poll, which was released Dec. 2. Eighty percent said they supported such investments. That increased to 83 percent when voters were told the investment would go directly to early-educator salaries.

The poll was one part of a larger research project looking at the current state of the early-education profession. It also included data based on interviews with educators. Eighty-four percent of early educators surveyed report low pay as a significant challenge to staying in the profession long-term. And 83 percent think it is fair to require educators to meet a baseline set of qualifications in exchange for better benefits and higher pay. Right now, more than half (54 percent) say that “willing to work for low pay” is a phrase that defines an “excellent” early educator.

Still, 20 percent of educators said the fact that the job was one they could get without needing a bachelor’s degree was either “important” or “very important” to them in choosing the profession. As the push for preschool teachers to hold bachelor’s degrees continues, many experts are talking about the need to create paths to higher qualifications for existing early educators with lots of experience, and in some cases on-the-job-training, but little formal degree work.

Early educators themselves, according to the poll, were almost evenly split on the idea of requiring bachelor’s degrees for lead early-education teachers and associate’s degrees for assistants. Forty-nine percent agreed with a statement saying they should be required. Forty-five percent disagreed.

As with other national polls, this poll showed particularly strong support for increased early-education spending among Democrats (94 percent in support), but also showed clear support from a majority of Republicans (66 percent in support). Also, younger men and women (ages 18-49) were more likely to support increased public funding for early education than older voters. (See chart.)

Nowhere did the poll ask voters about what costs they were willing to shoulder for private care. As the poll was geared towards figuring out if voters would support increases in funding for early education generally and increased salaries for educators specifically, it makes sense that cost wasn’t addressed. However, raising salaries would have a direct effect on cost, and so it is a relevant question that I’d be interested to see polled.

Read the Key Takeaway presentation based on the report.

Graphic: Courtesy NAEYC.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.