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Moving the Needle on Compensation

Early Childhood Workforce Compensation is a challenge for the field in retaining qualified teachers. Ohio established a State Compensation Team to review such issues as a part of a T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® OHIO National Center project called Moving the Needle on Compensation.

There were three goals associated with the project:

  • Support POWER Ohio and other wage supplement programs that were occurring around the state.
  • Promote and engage the workforce with “The Workforce Behind the Workforce” Facebook Campaign.
  • Support systems approach by assisting the Office of Workforce Transformation with establishing Early Childhood as a Critical Occupations.

Did you know that…

There is a direct relationship between the qualifications of early childhood teachers, compensation and the quality of their classrooms?

There is strong significant evidence of a positive correlation between teacher qualifications and quality with respect to the learning environment for all young children in early childhood education and care settings, including infants and toddlers. A large international meta-analysis suggests if we require educated, qualified teachers we will see significant improvements for quality within center-based and home-based settings.1 The qualifications, compensation and retention of early childhood teachers are the primary indicators of quality in an early care and education program.2 Early childhood professionals receiving higher compensation provide higher quality care.3

Many early childhood teachers already have credentials and degrees?
The National Survey of Early Care and Education found a majority (53%) of center-based and almost a third (30%) of home-based teachers and caregivers reported having college degrees, and almost a third of those reported BA or graduate/professional degrees.4

The biggest barrier for quality in child care programs is the level of compensation for the teachers?81% of early childhood educators surveyed agree that any major effort to increase the quality of early childhood education programs will fail unless early educators received increased salaries and benefits.5

The lowest paid profession in our country is the child care workforce?

Child care workers are in the 2nd percentile (nearly at the bottom) when all occupations are ranked by annual wages, earning $9.77 per hour.6 They earn less than half the hourly wage of teachers of elementary-aged children, often with the same credentials.7 Administrators of programs for young children typically earn less than 60% of what administrators of programs for elementary-aged children earn.8

The lifetime earnings of child care teachers with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education will be less than a graduate with any other major?

Unlike other professions, a child care teacher with an early childhood education degree is unlikely to be paid significantly more than her co-teachers without degrees. A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education occupies the dubious distinction of the college major with the lowest projected lifetime earnings.9

When a child’s brain is experiencing the most growth, their teachers are being paid the least?

Infant-toddler teachers are paid less than teachers working with preschool-age children. Teachers with a bachelor’s degree working with infants and toddlers are paid at rates similar to teachers working with children age three and older with associate degrees. Only 25% of infant and toddler teachers with bachelor’s or higher degrees earned $15 or more per hour, while half of those working with older children earned at least $15.50 per hour.10

Nearly half of the child care workforce is on public assistance?

Almost one half (46%) of child care workers, compared to 26% of the U.S. workforce as a whole, are part of families enrolled in at least one of four public support programs (EITC, Medicaid and CHIP, SNAP, and/or TANF.11 In every state, the average/median wage for a child care teacher was below the eligibility cut-off for SNAP.12


  • 1. Manning M, Garvis S, Fleming C, Wong T. W. G. The relationship between teacher qualification and the quality of the early childhood care and learning environment. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2017:1 DOI: 10.4073/csr.2017.1
  • 2. Economic Policy Institute, 2016. It’s time for an ambitious national investment in America’s children. Bivens, J; Garcia, E; Gould, E; Weiss, E; and Wilson, V.
  • 3. Center of Children, Families, and the Law. 2005. Compensation of Early Childhood teachers: What value do we place on young children?
  • 4. National Survey of Early Care and Education Project Team. (2013). Number and Characteristics of Early Care and Education (ECE) Teachers and Caregivers: Initial Findings from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE). OPRE Report #2013-38, Washington DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. EYC, 2016. Growing the Demand for Quality.
  • 5. NAEYC 2016. Growing the Demand for Quality.
  • 6. Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, 2015
  • 7. Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, 2016. Early Childhood Workforce Index.
  • 8. U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Employment andWages, May 2015,”Bureau of Labor Statistics, March EDUCATION POLICY. A Tale of Two Pre-K Leaders 35 30, 2016, https://www.bls.gov/oes/2015/may/oes119031. htm. (Tale of Two PreK leaders, New America)
  • 9. Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, 2016. Early Childhood Workforce Index. Hershbein, B., & Kearney, M.S. (2014). Major Decisions: What Graduates Earn Over Their Lifetimes. Retrieved from http://www.hamiltonproject.org/papers/ major_decisions_what_graduates_earn_over_their_lifetimes/
  • 10. Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, 2016. Early Childhood Workforce Index. University of California, Berkeley.
  • 11. UC Berkeley Labor Center calculations from 2009-2013. March Current Population Survey (CPS) 2009-2013 American Community Survey (ACS).
  • 12. ACF, July 2016. A Rising Tide of Attention to the Early Childhood Workforce: Releasing the Early Childhood Career Pathways Statement. U.S. Census Bureau, ACS 1 Year data (2014); U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics (2015);Head Start Program Information Report (2015).