by Patrick Gill, CHILDREN AT RISK

In the recently released report, Building Brains & Economies: Quality Child Care as an Engine for Economic Development in a 21st Century Texas, CHILDREN AT RISK examines how quality child care can be leveraged to drive Texas’s economy forward today and for years to come. This blog series summarizes key findings from this report. This post, four of six, details the current state of the child care workforce in Texas.

Child care teachers care for one of our greatest assets: our children. They provide support and education during a child’s most critical years of brain development as they prepare for kindergarten and beyond. Unfortunately, these teachers are often under-paid and under-educated. Currently, 1-in-4 child care educators in Texas have an associate’s degree or higher, but most are paid so little that they qualify for government assistance programs, such as subsidized child care (see Section 3 of our full report for more detail on Texas’s subsidized child care system).

These low wages and lack of benefits contribute to high turnover within the field—often, when an educator earns a bachelor’s degree, they leave child care for higher paying jobs in public Pre-K or Head Start programs. In fact, the average public Pre-K teacher in Texas earns more than twice as much as the average child care teacher with a college degree:

This turnover has compounding impacts on the many nonprofits and small businesses providing care to infants and toddlers in local communities across Texas. First, it means they often experience instability in their workforce and lack an experienced pool of options from which to fill open positions. Second, high turnover makes achieving and maintaining Texas Rising Star (TRS) quality certifications difficult, as staff instability directly impacts TRS’s Category 1 requirements, which relate to staff qualifications and tenure (for more on TRS in Texas, see part 3 of this blog series). In particular, child care providers cannot achieve TRS 4-Star certification without a well-qualified or experienced workforce.

Child care teachers are required to receive a certain number of professional development hours every year. Currently, the professional development is often one-time training that could—but currently does not—count as credit toward degrees or other certifications such as the Child Development Associate™ (CDA). This means that child care teachers in much of the state cannot utilize their required professional development hours to build their careers and must pursue such opportunities on their own.

Not be confused with a two-year associate’s degree, a CDA is a certification that can be a useful starting point for a child care teacher’s career. Unfortunately, even the hours spent achieving a CDA often do not count as credits for higher degrees, such as an associate’s or bachelor’s, even though the content is aligned. This, combined with the limited growth afforded through the current professional development system, makes progressing through a career pathway difficult for many child care teachers.

Some tools currently exist that support this work. One such tool is the Texas Early Childhood Professional Development System (TECPDS) is an online platform trying to support child care teacher careers by providing free resources and tools for early childhood education (ECE) professionals, including the Texas Workforce Registry. The Texas Workforce Registry allows ECE professionals to track training hours, education credits, and their work history to help them build a career portfolio of their accomplishments and qualifications. Though this resource is free for users and participation has been increasing, utilization is still low overall.

We must make bold investments and build upon existing tools and innovations to truly move the needle in ensuring that our child care workforce has the resources and supports it needs. To learn more about what Texas can do to support our child care workforce, stay tuned for the final two posts in this blog series and check out our full report: Building Brains & Economies: Quality Child Care as an Engine for Economic Development in a 21st Century Texas.

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