This post highlights a policy recommendation from our new report, The Quest for Equity and Quality Examining Provider Experiences and Participation in Texas Rising Star. This report, released 4/4/22, explores data from a statewide survey and focus groups in which providers were asked about their experiences with Texas Rising Star. 

ECE educators are one of the most important factors contributing to quality ECE. Unfortunately, educators face challenges that prevent them from providing the highest quality care. Despite being an essential occupation, early educators often receive extremely low wages, limited training or opportunities for advancement, and few benefits. These factors result in many educators being forced with a decision to leave the field, despite their passion, in search of higher paying jobs.

While many directors would like to increase compensation for their staff, they simply do not have the flexibility in their budget to pay wages educators are deserved. Currently, child care educators receive wages that are below the federal poverty line. The median annual wage for child care educators in Texas is roughly $20,300 with an average hourly wage of $10.15, resulting in roughly 56% of child care educators qualifying for at least one form of public assistance, such as Medicaid, causing high turnover rates among educators. On average, an educator working in child care with a bachelor’s degree makes 50% less than their counterpart in public school with the same degree. High turnover rates significantly impact the quality of care that children receive.

Percentage of ECE Educators Who Work Additional Jobs

Staffing issues have been a concern prior to the pandemic and have only heightened as the workforce tries to go back to work. To help recruit and retain educators in child care centers and family child care settings, TWC approved an additional $1 billion to the 2022 Child Care Relief Funds bringing the total for available funds to $3.4 billion. These funds can be used by providers to increase compensation and benefits offerings. Paying educators equitable wages not only reduces turnover but provides stability for both child care providers and families seeking high-quality care. TWC is taking an opportunity to prioritize compensation and retention strategies for ECE. As providers utilize the funding for compensation, it provides an opportunity to show key decision makers the need for additional money to achieve long-term pay parity for early childhood educators.

Reasons ECE Staff Do Not Have College Degree

In addition to compensation and benefits, we must also work to create a pipeline of high-quality educators to work in child care centers and family child care. Early childhood apprenticeships can provide educators with a career pathway that is affordable and offers the opportunity for higher education and training. Apprenticeship programs allow low-wage workers to get on-the-job training while simultaneously increasing their skills and potential for higher wages. Currently, Texas only requires an ECE educator to have a high school diploma and 24 hours of mandatory annual training. When asked why educators do not have a college degree, the top reasons included lack of salary increase and lack of financial assistance. If we want to retain high-quality educators in the field of early education, we need to ensure they are compensated and supported in a way that reflects the complexity of their work.

The CHILDREN AT RISK Early Childhood Education team will be discussing this report in depth throughout their virtual Texas Tour events in April 2022. They will also review strategies going into the 88th legislative session and present new Child Care Desert maps.