Summary: These include the program's services and environments, where young children spend their time, such as child care centers, pre-k programs and, are key to advancing children's development and ensuring they are ready to begin kindergarten. Yet many of Detroit's children are not getting the high-quality experiences they need and deserve to prepare them for the next stage of their education. Across five scales of Early Development- including physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge only 5.3 percent of Detroit children scored "Very Ready" when entering kindergarten. Ensuring children's early childhood experiences effectively aid their development depends on both the overall quality of the programs and the early childhood professionals who teach and care for them during these formative years.
Like many communities nationally Detroit's early childhood workforce is drastically underpaid and faces a fractured credentialing process. Analysis from census and survey data can be used to describe population-level financial and educational characteristics of the ECE workforce in Michigan, Wayne County, and Detroit. Research from the Policy Equity group notes that "Early childhood education professionals in the City of Detroit are under remarkable financial stress:" (27). Over 80 percent of ECE professionals in Detroit do not earn a living wage, which is defined as $10.87 per hour for a full-time working adult with no dependents. This percentage is significantly higher than that of Wayne County (60%) and the state as a whole
(51%). (27). Head Start teachers are only a portion of the early childhood workforce in Detroit, this finding is consistent with the organization's additional finings that "88 percent of Detroit Head Start teaching staff" reported at least some difficulty paying bills. Additionally, data shows disparities in the educational attainment of ECE professionals in the City of Detroit compared to the rest of Michigan. Only 38 percent of ECE professionals in Detroit had a bachelor’s degree or higher from 2014–16, compared to a statewide average of 53%.(27). The lack of resources and adequate training for these essential educators hurts the outcomes of children who participate in their programming, decreasing the chances that students enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Furthermore, fractured training protocols and different licensing standards, create a system that lacks continuity and can at times leave teachers inadequately trained to perform their work. (22).
Advocates should build off the work of the state's Department of Education and Office of Great State. Advocating for initiatives like Wage increases, and Scholarships for Early Childhood Professionals aligns with priorities 3.2 and 3.4 of the HSH policy priorities. This effort to provide financial support to the ECE workforce will help to improve the quality of ECE professionals. Additionally, redefining licensing and Higher Education certification programs will align well with HSH priority 3.1. Improving the training ECE professionals receive will also help to promote a higher quality of care.
Pennsylvania- The state reorganized its teacher credentialing system by creating a PK-4 license and a separate 4-8 specialization. The system also allows teachers to have dual certifications. The program is designed with the intent of improved teacher quality by generating a new crop of teachers with specialized training and credentials. (20) (21)
San Francisco-C-WAGES (Compensation and Wage Augmentation Grants for Economic Success) is a unique example of a city initiative aimed at raising salaries for early educators. The local initiative is jointly funded through the Office of Early Care and Education and the Department of Children, Youth, and their families. C-WAGES is designed to augment wages of and contribute to health and retirement benefits for early childhood teachers employed in the eligible licensed center- and home-based programs. Eligibility extends to programs where at least 25 percent of enrolled children are in families living below 75 percent of the state median income. Participation in C-WAGES also requires that programs establish standardized salary schedules, differentiated by job and education levels, and participate in quality rating and improvement activities. In 2016, 80 centers, representing 900 teachers, participated in C-WAGES. An additional 230 family child care providers and 75 of their paid employees also participated. (24) (25) (26)
Nationally- Many state offer scholarships or student loan relief to students pursuing careers in Early Childhood Education. (29) These grants are made with the dual goals of both attracting more students to the profession while also mitigating the financial burden of the educational training needed to reach these goals. Virginia for example has an extensive scholarship program known as the Virginia Childcare Provider Scholarship program that helps to offset the cost of schooling for current or future ECE workers (28). Another approach is to offer ECE workers student loan forgiveness. Pennsylvania and Maine are two states that author ECE educators this incentive (29). Maine in particular offers a year of student loan forgiveness for each year a provider works in ECE. In fact, in some ECE areas with shortages of workers, such as speech pathology, the state even offers two years of forgiveness for each year of service. (30).
Early childhood programming is carried out by a diverse set of providers in Detroit. Programs range from local childcare to state and federal led Pre-K programs like Head Start. At the state level, the Department of Education and the Office of Great Start have worked to define standards and career pathways for ECE professionals. Advocates can continue to build on the work of these state agencies to continue to improve the quality of early childhood programming.