by Janet McLaughlin
Recently, VTAEYC surveyed early childhood education programs about the impact of the current staffing crisis. The statewide survey confirms what we have heard in so many conversations: the staffing crisis is dire and its impacting our educators, children and families.
Of the programs surveyed, 86% are experiencing a staffing shortage. On average, there are 3.1 open positions per center-based program. 80% are enrolling fewer children than desired; on average, there are 10.1 fewer children served daily per center-based program.
With over 300 privately-operated center-based programs in the state, that’s 900 additional staff needed and as many as 3,000 fewer kids served each day.
We know from observing other states that increasing ratios or reducing qualifications will put more responsibility on already overextended staff and will make the staffing crisis worse, not better. We don’t endorse that as a solution. Given just how many educators are needed for these essential roles, it’s time to focus on transformation instead of tweaks.
VTAEYC and our partners are ready to work with the state on solutions that are are backed up by research and evidence. Ultimately, transforming early childhood education into a cohesive and well-supported profession with clear career pathways will stabilize and strengthen the field; this is the work of Vermont’s Advancing Early Childhood Education as a Profession project, led by a task force of Vermont early childhood educators with input from thousands of their peers.
As a state, we must work together urgently to increase compensation for early childhood educators and address common barriers to working in the field by offering dedicated health insurance supports, assistance with child care costs, and expanded student loan repayment.
VTAEYC is proud to run several scholarship and training programs with support from the Child Development Division and Department of Labor; because of that work plus the experiences of our members, we have a strong sense of how Vermont’s current recruitment and retention programs are and are not meeting the needs of the field.
Our current efforts are not on track to create the early childhood education workforce needed to meet the 3,000 children not being served in understaffed programs today, plus the additional nearly 9,000 likely to need care in spaces that don’t yet exist.
We need Vermont – the Administration and Legislature in partnership with nonprofits like VTAEYC – to create a robust workforce development effort for early childhood education – including expanded pipeline programs – as it has for other critical industries.
Janet McLaughlin is the executive director of VTAEYC.