A recent study by Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley found that preschool teachers are hardly earning enough to make ends meet. This harsh reality poses a serious threat to today’s undergraduate students working toward an early education degree.
The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care recently raised professional standards, requiring their teachers to earn bachelor’s degrees in order to maintain their employment. This standard proved to be increasingly taxing on early educators, who were forced to concede money for the schooling.
Early-life childcare workers in Massachusetts can make as little as $14.25 an hour — a babysitter’s wage — in public programs that often aim to grant impoverished children a strong basis on which they can grow both morally and academically. Unfortunately, the teachers who run these programs are not considered as essential as the programs they run. With such a grim future in mind, aspiring educators are finding themselves in purgatory — should they fuel the passion or keep the financial stability?
When the government pays for the schooling of a child in need, the program receives less money than it would when a family pays full price for the education. As a result, crucial daycare programs — that, arguably, are doing more good for the community than for-profit institutions — are not only low on resources, but low on staff as well.
Perhaps the most devastating shortcoming of the way these programs are run is that passions for teaching and helping children are going to waste. Teachers are inclined to seek part-time employment in the fast-food and retail industries, through which their financial profit is much higher than it would be with a full-time teaching job. This dynamic promotes a negative societal consensus that teachers’ professions are less valuable than those of any other scholarly professional or any other career, for that matter. Early-life educators’ careers should not be destroyed due to the incompetence of government funding.
Teaching a room full of children is often perceived as an easy occupation, because the general opinion is that the only requirement is to sing nursery rhymes and act like a child. However, teaching preschool involves excessive patience, discipline, strategic planning and professional experience. Most who criticize the profession are often those who are unable to handle the job with as much grace and compassion as the teachers they bash. Yet the teachers, who use hands-on social skills and remain actively engaged in their activities, are deemed less worthy of high salaries than jobs that require independent work in cubicles. This stands as a testament to the ungratefulness of society, as the public belittlement of those who nourish childhood growth and is tolerated.
As a result of low wages and subsequently limited faculty, some classrooms sit empty and others are forced to accommodate those students. The programs that had promised to provide comfort and mental nourishment to children are now unable to offer them that care. The teachers are then blamed for the effects of the government’s low-priority educational funding.
The preschool teacher salary struggle reflects the same economic war among classes that has existed over the last several centuries. This speaks poorly to the competence of the U.S. government, which is unable to improve the quality of life of some of its most benevolent and impassioned citizens. Preschool teachers in public programs concede physical and emotional health in order to build up their students, even though the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care is clearly unwilling to build up its teachers in the same way.
Undergraduate students pursuing degrees in early life and elementary education now have a critical choice to make. They may be unable to pursue their career aspirations solely as a result of economic reasons. With the lack of government funding, dreams are shattered: those of passionate, caring teachers who hoped to make a difference in the lives of their students, and those of aspiring teachers who are unable to follow their professional dreams. It is incredibly shameful that a judicial system that claims to want the best for the education of its youthful minds is so unwilling to back the programs and careers that inspire them. If this is the reality of the only adults who are truly invested in these programs, one can only wonder what is prematurely shattered for the young children who learn from them.