New degree rule could mean a shortage of preschool teachers

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Requiring preschool teachers of students from low-income families to have a bachelor’s degree may sound like a good idea, but not to Noribel Roman; for her, the recent state law means she would have to spend about $20,000 to earn a bachelor’s degree to keep her low-wage job.


Noribel Roman

“Considering what we get paid here, I can’t afford that student loan,” she said while preparing her classroom at a preschool in Hartford.

Her boss, Jessenia Santos-Seda, said all six teachers at her non-profit preschool face the same dilemma: earn a bachelor’s degree or face losing their jobs when the law takes effect in 2015.

“It’s ridiculous. Most of my teachers are low income and to ask them to pay [for school] to keep their same low-paying job is unfortunate,” Santos-Seda said. “If they can’t pay for it they are going to just give up and go get a new job.”

Her daycare center is not alone. Early childcare experts say daycare centers around the state that receive School Readiness money from the state to subsidize students from low-income families are facing a massive teacher shortage if the requirements are not changed. Connecticut Charts-A-Course, an early childcare professional development resource and employee registry, reports 1,018 preschool teachers — or 59 percent of all School Readiness preschool teachers — currently do not have a bachelor’s degree.

“There is no way we are going to meet that requirement. The preschools are in a panic and we really have not planned as a state what we are going to do,” said Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, whose career has focused on early childcare and is also the co-chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee.

Santos-Seda said her teachers — who get paid between $8 and $10 an hour — are eager to go to school but don’t have the ability to take out large students loans.

“They know they won’t be able to repay them,” she said.

State lawmakers appropriated $1.6 million in the current two-year budget for scholarships for preschool teachers who want to get their bachelor’s degree but can’t afford to do so on their own, but that money ran out at the beginning of January, Charts-A-Course Executive Director Darlene Ragozzine said. So far the state has spent $3 million on scholarships, but the number of teacher with degrees at School Readiness programs is still less than half.


Jessenia Santos-Seda

Now Charts-A-Course, which administers the scholarship program, has a long waiting list of teachers hoping the state puts up additional money.

Roman’s name is on that list and said she has no plans to enroll in school unless state lawmakers decide to provide scholarships.

“They are the ones requiring this, so they have to compensate in some way to pay for my school,” she said.

Claudia Sawyer, a career advisor at Charts-A-Course, said if the state plans to stay on course with this requirement they are going to need to provide much more money for scholarships.

“I am always having to tell [teachers], ‘Oh gosh, we don’t have the money to help you,” she said. “I have people say ‘Let them fire me then. I can make much more money at Stop and Shop.'”

An analysis of Professional Development Registry data provided by Connecticut Charts-A-Course indicates that early education teachers with bachelor degrees in community-based programs earn an average starting salary of $26,200, which greatly reduces the attractiveness of obtaining a degree in early childhood education.

“Something has to change,” Sawyer said. “We have people who are stuck. It breaks your heart what they are dealing with. These teachers want to keep their job but they also don’t want to take on debt to get paid the same.”

With the state facing a massive $3.67 billion deficit, finding anyone who believes lawmakers will be able to provide more money for scholarships is a challenge. Instead, Bye said a “more reasonable” expectation is that lawmakers will amend the requirements and create a cheaper and faster program for teachers.

“Everyone is saying universal preschool but we don’t have the workforce. There is a workforce crisis that is on the way if we don’t do something now to make it easier for qualified people to teach preschool,” Bye said.

She is putting her support behind a “more realistic” proposal that would require that just 50 percent of teachers have a bachelor’s degree by July 2015 and the remaining 50 percent have an associate’s degree. She plans to hold a public hearing in the next month on the topic.

Even meeting that requirement will be a challenge, but Charts-A-Course officials and Santos-Seda said it will be easier to comply with.

The state’s dozen community colleges graduate about 265 students a year in early childhood programs, Charts-A-Course reports.

Requiring the 50-50 split could also help address the constant turnover at the preschools among those that earn their bachelor’s degree. Charts-A-Course says each year one out of every five teachers with a bachelor’s degree leaves.

“They are required to go for a bachelor’s. So they go ahead and get certified. They can just jump ship and go work in a public school and make more money. Why would they stay in a low-paying job?” Ragozzine said. “The upcoming requirements have to change.”

The State Department of Education reported last year that because these teachers will expect higher pay, the cost to operate state-funded preschools will have to increase in order to recruit and retain staff with bachelor’s degrees. Connecticut spends almost $74 million each year to subsidize preschool programs in low-income areas across the state. The SDE estimates there is a need for about 13,000 additional slots — an expansion that is estimated to cost $100 million.

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Sherri Dillard

Listen to Preschool educator Sherri Dillard respond to the “New Degree Rule.”

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Will compensation be better for ECE teachers if they were allowed flexibility when obtaining their credentials in colleges???

When looking at the demographic of ECE students a majority of those students consist of non-traditional students, full time workers attending night classes, and minorities with children of their own. Whether you look at your college education as an expense or investment, it’s still costly on the student.  Those eager students are left with not-so-promising career compensation in their future. Improving ECE compensation requires increase investments from consumers and government, but where’s the middle ground? Some have proposed a charter college for Early Childhood Educators. These colleges would focus on the practices, knowledge and skills ECE educators need to learn without the burden of college course work. This flexibility will easy any financial burden and will most likely aid in finding employment sooner than completing a four year degree.

For further reading on this topic please read the following paper written by Kevin Carey and Sara Mead.

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Are you guilty of illegally teaching???

Under the No Child Left Behind act teachers are required to have a MINIMUM of an AA degree in Early Childhood. This however, has NOT been enforced in many states due to the lack of compensation available to pay the more educated and qualified teachers. What are your thoughts on the requirements preschool teacher should obtain in order to teach young children? Does the cost of an educated and more qualified teacher worth the raise in preschool tuition? Or do you believe teacher should be given special low cost certifications and education for their current compensation???

For further reading on these requirements follow this link


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Rewarding Work Environments for the Early Care and Education Workforce

Three Steps to Success: Prepare, Support, Reward
Decades of research link better compensation and work environments to the recruitment and retention of highly skilled early care and education practitioners, and to higher-quality services for children. Yet wages and benefits for early educators remain among the lowest in the country, fueling high turnover and undermining efforts to improve quality. Further, many teachers work in environments that do not adequately support their ongoing professional development and learning. Initiatives to reward and support this workforce often suffer from insufficient and undependable funding.
Teacher well-being leads to child well-being
Effective teaching of young children requires dedicated public funding to improve the compensation and work environments of early care and education practitioners. To achieve this goal, CSCCE recommends:
Public investment in identifying and testing strategies to improve the compensation of professionals working with children from birth to age five:
  • Convene a federal commission of multidisciplinary experts to generate policy solutions for increasing wages and expanding key benefits, including vacation and sick leave, health insurance, and retirement plans for early care and education practitioners.
  • Include compensation benchmarks in state and local quality rating and improvement systems.
    State investment in supporting better adult learning and work environments as a critical ingredient in
    providing higher-quality early care and education:
  • Expand the scope of quality initiatives to focus on improving elements of the work environment that are
    critical for teacher growth and development.
  • Establish positive and supportive work environment benchmarks for quality rating and improvement systems, focusing on teaching supports, adult well-being and learning opportunities.
  • Expand the quality and availability of on-site education and professional development opportunities utilizing mentoring, training, and practicum experiences.
  • Support research that identifies and measures best practices to help practitioners engage in ongoing learning and quality improvement.
    Federal and state investment and support for recruiting the next generation of early childhood educators:
  • Launch a national campaign to communicate the value and skills of the ECE profession and to recruit the next generation of early learning practitioners.
  • Invest workforce development funds in an Early Learning Careers Initiative that promotes the skills and rewards of careers working with young children.

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Policy Recommendations

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What if you were to wake up tomorrow and found that early childhood educators were almost nonexistent?

ece pic

Salary for Education Administrators of Preschool and Childcare Centers/Programs

The responsibilities of Preschool and Childcare Center Education Administrator are numerous and include monitoring student progress, providing assistance to teachers and teaching assistants as necessary to resolve any problems, directing and coordinating teachers and administration assistants, allocating funds for supplies, and ensuring facility safety and maintenance. Additionally, educational administrators may be expected to prepare attendance and performance reports for the relevant local and state agencies, and occasionally directly interact with and provide care for students. The position requires knowledge and use of office software programs, email, and devices such as digital cameras. Individuals with this career are commonly expected to have current First Aid certification, and state and local clearances for working with children. Bachelor’s degrees are almost always required for this position, but regardless of education, due to the complexity of the tasks involved in this occupation, several years of work experience is frequently required.

An Education Administrator can get an average compensation that can range from 32000 to 48000 based on tenure level. Education Administrators, Preschool and Childcare Center/Program can get an average pay level of Forty Six Thousand One Hundred dollars yearly.

Education Administrators, Preschool and Childcare Center/Program obtain the highest pay in New York, where they can earn a compensation of about $60150. People with this job title can get the best compensation in Public Administration, where they earn salary pay of $72500.

The national wage distribution is shown below. To overlay local salaries for an Education Administrator, please select your state.

What if you were to wake up tomorrow and found early child educators in California were to leave our schools for a higher paying careers? Would you still be on time for work? Would you be able and willing to stay at home and educate your own children?  The average teacher makes between 28,0000 to 30,000 a year.  The minimum wage in California as of 2013 , is $8.50 an hour.   For education administrators an average salary can range from 32,000 to 48,000 a year.  The one problem in todays society when it comes to education is that most teachers must pay to have extensive training, but are not getting properly compensated for this training.  This issue then causes some educators to have to work more than one job or find other ways to support themselves financially.  What is your opinion on this matter?
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