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BPC's Linda Smith on New NASEM Early Childhood Study

Washington, D.C.– This week, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) released a report, Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education. The study calls for increased federal and state funding to be phased in over time to ensure our children have access to a high quality system of child care and early education. Brain science has proven that learning begins with the first day of life. The years between birth and age five provide the foundation for the future success of our nation’s children. This study builds on a prior Institutes of Medicine study that identified the need for qualified early childhood teachers to ensure our children are learning the fundamentals that put them on a path to success in education, society and life.

According to this report, in order to ensure families have access to to a quality system, public investments will need to grow by at least $5 billion a year in phase one, increasing to $53 billion in phase four. The single biggest cost driver is the work force. The study notes that the averge early care and education teacher with a bachelors degree or higher makes just $28,912 annually, half the salary of an elementary school teacher. The median hourly wage for a center-based practitioner is $10.60, or about $22,000 per year, only slightly above federal poverty level for a family of three.

We applaud the recent action taken by Congress to add an additional $2.8 billion per year for the Child Care and Development Block Grant in Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 and 2019. This is an excellent down payment and will allow the early childhood sector to use this study and the increased funding to begin the hard work of creating a teaching staff that offer meaningful and well-paid work, serve a critical need for families, and fuel the next generation’s potential.

“Child care teachers are here to stay—these are jobs that can’t be automated or outsourced,” said Linda Smith, BPC’s director of early childhood policy. “We need to update the expectations, training, and compensation so that this field can attract and retain skilled professionals who know how to foster healthy development.”

“The report gives us lots to think about,” Smith said. “Our early care and education system needs a major renovation, to reflect the way we live and work today, and that focuses on all children, all parents and all families. We must stop expecting the way we offered, and paid for, child care in the past to suffice for the realities of today. We need a new model, grounded in new ways to finance this critical infrastructure. It is a shared investment that touches almost every American—whether employer or employee, parent, grandparent, or child.”

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