To ensure that the state’s early education and care programs are high-quality endeavors, Massachusetts should find the best ways to structure the salaries and career pathways of early educators, according to a recent report from the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC). The report looks at salary data for early educators and explores how the Massachusetts Career Ladder could be used to tie educators’ qualifications and skills to salary incentives.
“The educators who teach our children from birth to age five significantly influence the rest of their lives, both intellectually and emotionally,” said Mary Reed, founder and president of the BTWIC in a press release. “If we want to develop and retain high-quality early childhood educators, we have to work together to improve the way we evaluate and compensate them at every level. This baseline analysis of salaries is an important step in the right direction.”
Using a Career Ladder for Professional Development
“In 2010, the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children collaborated with the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to create a career ladder for early educators,” the report explains. The ladder outlines a professional development structure for Massachusetts. It sets standards for salary increases, and, as the report puts it, the ladder “defines the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to function in different roles across all settings embedded in EEC’s mixed-delivery system.” In 2011, the ladder was endorsed by the Board of Early Education and Care.
The Report’s Findings
BTWIC looked at salary data collected in 2012 from EEC’s Professional Qualifications Registry (PQ Registry). The PQ Registry gathers information on the size, composition, education and experience of our current workforce that’s self-reported by early educators throughout the mixed-provider system. An analysis showed that “the median annual salary for center-based early educators is below the average salary of workers in comparable fields and below the economic independence standard for Massachusetts.”
While the work of early educators is crucial because their efforts can enhance children’s brain development, the earnings of early educators are dishearteningly low. As of August 2012, according to the report, the median annual salary for center-based early educators in Massachusetts was between $22,501 and $25,000. Family child care providers earned slightly more, making between $25,001 and $27,500.
The report used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to compare these salaries with other related occupations in Massachusetts. This comparison found higher earnings in these jobs: kindergarten teachers earned an annual median salary of more than $57,630; social workers earned $43,534; and educators in public preschools earned between $30,000 and $32,500.
The Report’s Recommendations
“The state of Massachusetts must increase its investment in the early childhood education workforce if it is to recruit and retain well-qualified early educators and attain its goal of providing high-quality care to young children,” the report says.
The report also makes four recommendations:
- EEC should continue to make early educator salaries a top priority.
- EEC should explore ways to improve the completeness and accuracy of the PQ Registry’s data, specifically the salary field.
- EEC should release reports every two years that summarize PQ Registry salary data, providing this important data to early educators, advocates and the public.
- EEC should find innovative ways to increase salaries for high-quality educators by using the career ladder, raising the reimbursement rate, and through QRIS grants and other strategies.
The report concludes that: “The EEC and the state of Massachusetts must ensure that early educators have adequate financial incentives to attain a higher level of professionalism. Innovative strategies to support the early education workforce have the potential to elevate Massachusetts as a national leader for early education workforce reform. Without such efforts, the quality of early childhood education in the state will inevitably suffer.”