“Worthy Work – Worthy Wages”
When Worthy Wage Day was born, I was teaching and directing a child care program and since I was stumped as to how pay any of us teachers a remotely living wage, I found Marcy Whitebook’s work which confirmed what I suspected. The system is rigged against fair teacher wages – and not by anyone who was making money off of them. (Except I still can’t see how corporate programs pay stockholders when they should be paying teachers). The free market system doesnt work in the child care ‘business’ because the only source of revenue is from parents who dont have the resources to pay for the services they receive, the “full cost of quality” is a secret, paid for by teachers.
I like to imagine what life would be like if I went to my doctor and he said I needed XYZ and it would cost $5000.00. And I looked at him pitifully and invoking his love of my general well being I said plaintively “but I only have $2000.00. please, sir, could you just take what I can offer? its for something so important and you care about it too – please? pretty please?” And I can hear the doctor saying with a sigh, “Okay”. Ain’t gonna happen, right? But that is precisely what the dynamics are in the child care “industry”. And who is it that pays for the missing $3000.00? The doctor/teacher who provides the service for less than it cost the doctor/teacher. Its a loss. I know a child care teacher who provides the parents of the children in her class a receipt for the thousands of dollars of her “forgone wages” that she has essentially donated to the families.
To those of us in early childhood, there is nothing new here – we have been singing this sad song for well over 30 years. The stunning part is that absolutely nothing has changed. We saw early childhood rise from “day care” to the President’s budget. We have learned to appreciate the seriousness of very young children’s experiences and their effect over their lifetimes. We have state early learning standards and QRIS systems and conferences at the White House and national gatherings of the experts and we have learned important things that help us serve our children better – we are better teachers of literacy and language, of dual language learners, of the importance of play and the role of instruction, of outdoor learning and social emotional self regulation. We understand better the role of teacher child interactions, of authentic parent engagement, of cultural and linguistically competent responsive teaching – have I missed anything? We now do all this and early childhood teachers are not making any more than they did 30 odd years ago. http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/cscce/2014/report-worthy-work-still-unlivable-wages/ What a deal!!! What a disgrace.
How is this possible? What the hell is the problem? Ok, well we know what the problem is. Why the hell have we not addressed it?! We have tinkered around the edges of the child care system trying to improve quality, measure quality, motivate quality, bribe quality education for children and on the backs of teachers making $9.57/hour in my state. That is $19, 140 a year for teachers of infants through three year olds. If the teacher has 2 children or a husband and 1 child she is below the federal poverty guidlines. The mean income in my state is $46,000/year. If this teacher teaches four yr olds in a place that calls them preschoolers, she may make $12.27 an hour. A teacher of five yr olds (aka kindergarten teacher) makes $19.96/hour, over $40,000 a year. And SHE deserves more!
This is the definition of cognitive dissonance. It is a social and economic justice issue. It is about gender, race, class and a perfect storm of isms to marginalize. We have doomed teachers to two paths – follow their commitment to young children and live in poverty or leave the field and go almost anywhere else. Like groom dogs. or park cars. If we dont care about the teachers, where is our responsibility to the children these teachers are “raising” in full day programs?
So while this is a familiar rant, my outrage, wrath and anger increase every year. The answer is a public will to commit federal and state dollars to adequately fund a system that properly cares and educates all children, doesnt reduce their teachers to a life in poverty and doesnt rob young parents of their economic security. This is not rocket science. This is about rights and justice.
Thank you to my sheroes Rosemarie and Peggy and Deb and Deb and Margie and Marcy and Peg and Gretchen and Angie and Lori and Ann and the hundreds of Worthy Wagers around the country who have been fighting for this for years. Lets drum up even more momentum with a Twitter Storm /http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/cscce/2015/worthy-wage-day-twitter-storm/ this May 1st – the 22nd Worthy Wage Day! I will be marching with my sisters (and few brothers!) again!
If this doesnt do it, then all we can do is…..strike!?