The committed individuals who nurture and teach the nearly 70 percent of Iowa’s young children who are cared for outside of their home every day continue to be undervalued despite the importance of their work.  The grossly inadequate level of wages for child care staff—roughly $18,180 a year for full time work, and typically less than that in rural Iowa—has led to difficulties in attracting and retaining high quality early childhood caregivers and educators.  The turnover of childcare providers is typically around 30 percent a year; this high rate interrupts consistent relationships that children need to have with their caregivers in order to flourish. Since 1987, child care providers and other early childhood professionals nationwide recognize Worthy Wage Day on May 1, raising public awareness to highlight the importance of child care provider compensation as part of quality early childhood education.

The 2015 Institute of Medicine Report, released in April, recommends higher education for everyone providing education or child care for children ages birth to age 8. The 2010 Iowa Center and Family Child Care Provider Wage Study found the average hourly wage for a teacher in a licensed child care program to be $9.96 per hour, barely over $20,000 per year. Assistant teachers and child care providers who provide care in their homes earn even less, between $8,000-$18,000 per year for full-time work.  When compared to other occupations on the OES Wage Survey from the Iowa Workforce Development, only fast food cooks/cashiers typically earn less than your child’s teacher or caregiver.  Even animal caretakers and parking lot attendants average more per hour than those who provide early care and education services. Those responsible for the care of our most precious possessions, our youngest children, are earning poverty-level wages that typically do not allow adequate support for their own families.  

We say we value our young children.  Do we appropriately compensate those who spend 8 to 12 hours a day caring for this future workforce, our children and our grandchildren?

The Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children (Iowa AEYC) is implementing a project to impact the compensation of the child care workforce.  Child Care WAGE$® is a nation-wide project available in Iowa since August 2013.  With appropriate support from foundations and public funding partners, eligible child care teachers and providers can be provided a stipend through Iowa AEYC, annually worth up to $3500, dependent on their level of education. Iowa AEYC is a professional association with 1200 members across the state, and is the home for T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® IOWA.

Do something special this year to honor your child’s caregiver.  A compensation bonus would be a nice start.