“Are you ready to go to bed?” she asks, as she oversees bath time for her 3-year-old daughter and another of her charges. For 25 hours a week, Holt cares for toddler twins, in addition to her daughter and teenage son.
“Some days I’m really strong,” she says. “Some days it’s like, ‘OK, give me seven cups of coffee.’ “
Nationwide, average pay for child care workers like Holt is less than $10 an hour. Nearly half of these workers receive some kind of public assistance.
Holt gets food stamps and her children are on Medicaid. “And I just feel like it’s kind of messed up,” she says. “You would think, being in a profession such as teaching, I should be making enough money where I didn’t qualify at all.”
Specialists in early education say low pay doesn’t just hurt childcare workers. It has an effect on babies and toddlers, too, and poses a major challenge in creating high quality child care — something 71 percent of parents who rely on care from outside the family say they seek when choosing a program, according to a recent poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“We’re seeing a high turnover of [child care] teachers,” says Michele Rivest, executive director of the North Carolina Child Care Coalition. “We’re seeing the lowest enrollment in our community college programs for early education. And I think it’s all attributable to low wages.”
Research shows the turnover among child care workers nationally is about 30 percent.
The North Carolina coalition plans to lobby state lawmakers this coming session to budget $10 million for bonuses for these workers, hoping to persuade more early educators to stay put. They would get an extra $2,000 to $4,000 from the state a year, …