Special Report
Education

Vast Responsibilities, Minimal Pay

By Kathryn M. Doherty — January 10, 2002 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As a nation, the United States pays about as much to people who watch its cars as to those who take care of its children, according to the latest wage figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With an average annual salary of $15,430 in 1999, child-care workers earned about as much as parking-lot attendants and dry-cleaning workers.

Preschool teachers--a category that includes workers who identify themselves as teachers in child-care settings--don’t fare much better. They earned an average salary of $19,610 in 1999, less than half of what elementary school teachers made.

But while teacher shortages and inadequate salaries for K-12 educators are persistent issues in public-policy debates, far less discussion takes place about the nation’s child-care workforce.

As schools are being held more accountable for student performance, attention has increasingly turned to the issue of how prepared children are emotionally, socially, and academically when they arrive at school.

According to the National Household Education Survey, 70 percent of 4-year-olds in the United States were involved in center-based nonparental care and education programs in 1999. A majority of children receive care outside their homes beginning with their first birthdays.

An ‘Insufficient Pool’

Given such statistics, it is clear that child-care providers are a major presence in the lives of young children.

“One of the strongest predictors of childcare outcomes is the quality of the teacher,” says Marilou Hyson, the associate executive director for professional development for the National Association for the Education of Young Children, based in Washington.

Yet, according to a Center for the Child Care Workforce study, the “insufficient pool of workers to care for and educate young children prior to kindergarten seldom registers on the radar screen of public awareness.”

A profile of early-childhood-care providers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Youth shows that the average center-based child-care provider nationwide earned roughly $7 an hour in 1999.

Ninety-seven percent of the child-care workforce is female, and the training and educational requirements for child-care providers vary widely across the states.

According to Wheelock College’s Center for Career Development in Early Care and Education, fewer than half the states require any preservice training for child-care providers.

And even in those states that do require training, the expectations often are minimal.

‘Alarmingly Unstable’

Not surprisingly, given the low wages, turnover among child-care providers is high.

“Then and Now,” a longitudinal study by the Institute of Industrial Relations at the University of California, Berkeley, says the teaching staffs in child-care centers are “alarmingly unstable.”

According to that study, a full 76 percent of child-care providers employed at centers in 1996 had left by 2000. Nationwide, it’s estimated that about one-third of child-care providers leave their jobs each year.

A version of this article appeared in the January 10, 2002 edition of Education Week


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP