By VTAEYC Treasurer Heather Martin. Heather is an early childhood education consultant based in Proctor, Vermont who led early childhood education programs in Vermont from 2005 to 2021.
The Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children believes that a well-prepared and well-compensated workforce is an essential component of high-quality early childhood education. Over the last 3 years, VTAEYC has facilitated the workforce-led Advancing the Profession project, to create a unified voice and a model for systemic change. This initiative includes early educators across all settings, stakeholder agencies, and institutes of higher education. Our project advances a framework for a sustainable early childhood infrastructure, in which professional wages are a key component. Ultimately, early childhood educators need to be paid professional wages for professional work. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Vermont needed at least 2000 more early childhood educators to meet our economic demand. Currently, our low wages and lack of benefits continue to exacerbate this problem to crisis level.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has outlined areas of focus for states to help stabilize the early childhood workforce and help prevent further staffing losses. (VTAEYC is the Vermont affiliate of NAEYC, a national membership organization for early childhood educators and the standard bearer of high-quality early education.) Vermont has already made efforts to stabilize childcare during the pandemic and the following ideas will help ensure the quickest recovery possible. The following are areas of substantial need that are also allowable uses for relief funding:
- Increase early childhood educator wages. This should be done in a way that is predictable for program administrators so they and their staff can plan ahead.
- Increase access to benefits, such as paid time off and retirement.
- Establish categorical eligibility for the state healthcare exchange and subsidized health insurance. Washington State has already set up a model that works for their state.
- Establish categorical eligibility for childcare subsidy for early educators’ own children. We are losing childcare staff because they can’t pay for their own children to attend childcare.
- Pay childcare programs based on either licensed capacity or enrollment instead of attendance.
- Invest heavily in higher education scholarship and apprenticeship programs as well as the associated wage increases.
Although NAEYC has put forth some well-researched ideas, it’s important for CDD to hear from Vermont early childhood educators about what you need. VTAEYC is calling on all early educators to let the State of Vermont know what would help you and your program! Participation from directors, teachers, assistants, para-educators, family childcare providers, and substitutes across all settings will help let state leaders know how they can best support you. You can register to attend the live webinar Friday, July 9th @1:00 and submit a survey (to be shared after the call). This feedback will influence how ARPA dollars are used to support early childhood education in Vermont.
If you could not attend Heather’s webinar on July 9, watch the CDD’s 16-minute video here.