By: GEEARS for Saporta Report
There is a workforce crisis. It is a national issue and also one in Georgia. This issue started before the pandemic and has become more amplified over the past 18 months. It has become increasingly difficult to recruit people to careers in early childhood education. Before and during the pandemic, educators report that the primary issue driving them away from the field is lack of support, resources, and compensation—issues that have only deepened in the context of the pandemic. Early childhood education is a labor-intensive field and providing high-quality early childhood education is not – nor should it be – a cheap endeavor.
There are many reasons for this shortage. Parents deciding to stay home post-pandemic, workers not making enough money to maintain a low-wage job and still take care of their children. Bottom Line: hard-working families shouldn’t need to spend their whole income on child care, and child care workers deserve a living wage.
Congress is currently considering several proposals including the American Families Plan (AFP) which, if passed, would help ensure early childhood educators receive a livable wage. This could secure that families can afford child care and start their child’s education right with high-quality pre-K. The Frazer Center saw very clearly that we had to get ahead of this situation in order to survive and provide the critical services we offer to our community. We are in support of the AFP but could not wait for it to pass. The Frazer Center’s teaching staff was understaffed by 30% and had reduced enrollment in the Children’s Program. Therefore, we committed to making this investment and raising our wages to $15/per hour. This change was implemented on September 6, 2021.
Many employers are responding by increasing their starting wage to $15/hour. When faced with working a difficult and challenging job at Frazer Center for $12/hour, or stocking shelves at Walmart for $15/hour, some are understandably choosing the latter. Businesses like ours rely on entry-level workers to fill the gap in early education and services for adults with disabilities. It’s not just Walmart and Target that are raising wages to $15/hour. It is other disability providers and early childhood programs. For those who feel called to this profession as a career, they can now stay in the field and earn $15/hour or more.
We are fortunate that we have been able to increase wages for The Frazer Center Staff. We hope more early education and adult disability service organizations will take the same steps. We provide critical services to the most vulnerable of our community, the youngest and the oldest. Now is the time to build a system that works, and to join with us and our partner, GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students in raising our voices to support our workforce. Take action now in support of significant, sustained federal funding for child care to be passed through the budget reconciliation package.