Opinion | DC Recognizes the Importance of Early Childhood Education

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Opinion | DC Recognizes the Importance of Early Childhood Education

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Kathy Hollowell-Makle is Executive Director of the Early Childhood Education Association of the District of Columbia.

District policymakers are beginning to recognize what the science of early childhood education has told us for decades. Early childhood education is the foundation of all learning for school and life.

The DC Council has taken bold legislative action and invested to ensure that early educators in the district are well prepared and compensated to meet the demands and pleasures of working with our youngest citizens. rice field. These moves counter the historical racism that underpins care and education in the United States, and the current dismissal of early childhood educators as mere babysitters.

Like K-12 education, early childhood education supports a family’s ability to work, but it does more. Research consistently shows that toddlers who receive a quality early education have a richer vocabulary, improve their language skills, and perform better on school readiness assessments in math and science. The long-term benefits for children living in underserved communities are even more significant, resulting in higher high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates and incomes. Even if children experience stress during their formative years, a quality positive environment with skilled and supportive adults can mitigate its lasting effects.

It is this science that enables all children (not just those whose parents can afford it) to be intelligent, competent, nurturing, and just children who intentionally create developmental plans and enriching experiences. This is why we need to ensure equitable access to early educators who are rewarded for DC enables educators to acquire skills and competencies through degrees and certifications as part of a comprehensive effort to reverse the history of early childhood education and educators’ undersupport, underrepresentation and underfunding. That is why we have created quality standards for This history goes back centuries, when enslaved black women were forced to care for the children of plantation owners, leaving their own children without care. After slavery, many black women continued to work as domestic help, even though they had few other opportunities.

Despite the essential status and growing recognition of the skills, knowledge and commitment required for it, child care providers remain low-wage workers to this day. An early educator, on average across the country, he earns about $15 an hour. Until recently, the average early-stage educator in Washington, D.C., earned about $20, well below the $34 wage for affordable housing and the level of compensation earned by public school teachers. was In 2016, the DC Council endorsed the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) decision to increase the eligibility requirements for early educators. The court ruled that all lead teachers at early learning centers and homes should have a minimum associate’s degree, assistant teachers should have an associate’s degree in child development, and the director of the center should have a bachelor’s degree, DC. agreed that can be enacted.

The good news is that early educators and directors already meet these requirements. According to OSSE, as of August, he 78% of early learning center directors have met the new educational requirements. 40% and 34% for lead and auxiliary educators, respectively, and 50% for home educators.

DC must continue to invest time and money to ensure that advanced qualifications and pathways to education are easily and equitably accessible to educators in all settings. Currently, for example, an early educator engaged in an OSSE-sanctioned early childhood education program from birth to age 5 is eligible for comprehensive scholarships at several local colleges and workforce development programs. . An increase in credentials — with the support needed to obtain them — need not lead to a decrease in supply. However, it should bring an increase in reward. That is why in 2021, the DC Council will unanimously pass the Early Childhood Educator Pay Equity Fund, with overwhelming public support, to increase pay for those working in licensed early learning centers and at home. Did.

The lack of childcare facilities is due to insufficient compensation for workers. To solve this problem, early educators must be recognized and supported as highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals. They should have the opportunity to work in a field with standards, qualifications and rewards similar to other specialties. Keeping parents and educators at odds with each other will never solve this problem. Both want the best for their children and cannot afford to subsidize the cost of quality childcare and early learning on their own.

Quality comes at a cost, but the benefits are public, and so should the investment. DC and its residents recognize this and make early education a sustainable career choice We are taking steps to support this sector in order to provide quality choices for children and families. Qualified educators help develop children to be compassionate critical thinkers, problem solvers, environmental managers, and civic-minded. After centuries of underestimating the profession and science of early childhood education, we are at a crossroads with an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a stronger future.