Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

Earlier this week, we blogged about the shortage of early education and care workers in Massachusetts.

Today, we’re looking at similar shortages around the country.

Take Wisconsin where, “Low hourly wages, the lack of professional development opportunities and a high turnover rate are major factors contributing to the state’s preschool teacher shortage, experts say,” according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

“‘If you know that 52 percent of the childcare workforce in Wisconsin has at least an associate degree and that the average wage is $10 an hour, it’s not surprising that we’d have a teacher shortage,’ said Ruth Schmidt, executive director of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, last week.”

Wages have been shockingly stagnant, according to a Wisconsin Early Childhood Association report. In 1997, child care workers earned $7.03 per hour – equal to $10.22 in 2013 dollars. In the year 2013, child care workers were only earning a few cents more in real dollars, taking home $10.33 per hour.

In addition, Wisconsin’s turnover rate among early educators is 35 percent, “which is significantly higher than the state’s overall workforce turnover rate of 8 percent.”

Similar challenges exist across the country.

In Nebraska, the Buffett Early Childhood Institute has helped form the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission, “39 public- and private-sector leaders working to develop a comprehensive plan for expanding and strengthening the state’s early childhood workforce.”

“If we don’t start making some changes, things are just going to get worse,” Susan Sarver tells the Grand Island Independent. She’s the institute’s director of workforce planning and development. “What that ultimately means is that it is much harder on the kids.”

The workforce commission’s goals include:

• creating “a shared state vision” for creating “a skilled, informed, and diverse early childhood workforce”

• adopting a “commission-approved version of the proposed Blueprint for Transforming Nebraska’s Early Childhood Workforce” as a guiding framework

• developing implementation plans that include “effective strategies, actions, and responsible parties,” and

• encouraging “collaboration among stakeholders throughout the state”

How are other states doing? The think tank New America answers with an article called, “How Three States Are Focusing on Early Childhood Educators: Missouri, Oklahoma, and Virginia passed noteworthy legislation focused on their early childhood workforce.”

Missouri’s legislation provides early educators with grants “to higher education institutions and technical schools for the Child Development Associate (CDA) Certificate program.” And Oklahoma requires “all directors of child care centers have either a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or childhood development or, alternatively, a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience working with children aged 0-12.”

But most notable is Virginia where officials “created the School Readiness Committee to develop and align an ‘effective professional development and credentialing system for the early childhood education workforce.’ Duties of the task force include reviewing teacher licensing and education programs, aligning existing professional development funding streams, and creating innovative approaches to increase ‘accessibility, availability and affordability of the workforce development system…’”

State action is badly needed because the early education and care workforce is increasingly held together by good will and scotch tape – and this creates a shaky foundation for children and for their long-term success.

So it’s up to policymakers to bring needed reforms and create an infrastructure that promotes the social, emotional, educational, and long-term economic well-being of the nation’s young children.