The shortage of workers in child care continues to make news, including in an article featured on the Boston University News Service website.
“This is happening across the country, and Massachusetts is struggling to retain early educators in the workforce,” Anne Douglass, founding executive director for the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at the University of Massachusetts Boston, says in the article. “A significant segment of the industry is unable to find enough educators to operate at full capacity.”
The familiar culprits are low wages and few benefits.
“According to the Economic Policy Institute,” the article says, “child care workers’ families throughout the country are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as other workers’ families. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, as of May 2022, child care workers in Massachusetts are paid a median hourly wage of $18.30.”
A key problem is that child care programs rely solely on tuition. As the article explains:
“Lauren Kennedy, co-president and chief strategy officer of Boston-based advocacy group Neighborhood Villages, said wages are low because families are given the responsibility to pay for the cost of care.
“Local, state and federal governments fund part of the day-to-day operation for K-12 public schools; however, the only thing that funds child care centers is the tuition families pay for early education services, which is why they are limited in what they can offer for wages, according to Kennedy,” the article says.
“ ‘This vicious circle just keeps repeating itself where quality and educator wages are just fundamentally pitted against family affordability,’ she said. ‘So the only way that we fix this … is by having the government step in and offset the cost of child care.’ ”
Without this kind of support, early educators face financial hardships, struggling to pay for food, pay off student loans, and afford child care for their own children.
“According to the Economic Policy Institute, a typical child care worker in Massachusetts would have to spend 75.6% of their earnings to put their own child in infant care.
“ ‘I don’t fault any teacher for saying, particularly many of our teachers or parents themselves, “I can’t afford to put my own kid in child care because the pay is so low,” ’ Kennedy said. ‘Any of us right now would consider leaving for another field.’ ”
Embedded in these problems are the seeds of solutions, including government support for higher wages.
To learn more, check out the article.