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Worthy Wages Campaign Toolkit Early educators deserve worthy wages for worthy work!

Overview

The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear to everyone that child care is essential – for young children, working families, and our state’s economy. Early educators are the workforce behind the workforce, and they have been on the frontlines of this crisis from day one. Despite their essential role, child care teachers remain woefully underpaid and undervalued for the critically important work they do.

Child care teachers are essential. They are the workforce behind the workforce.

North Carolina’s economic recovery and future prosperity depend on a strong early childhood workforce and child care system. But the early childhood workforce crisis existed long before the pandemic, and we cannot continue to build our early education system on the backs of child care teachers working for unlivable wages. It’s up to us to make sure policymakers recognize the value of the early childhood workforce – before, during, and after COVID-19. It’s long past time for early educators to earn the professional compensation and benefits they deserve.

It’s time for everyone to stand up and speak out! This Worthy Wages toolkit provides resources, messaging, and tools to help you be an effective advocate. We need your voice, your story, your commitment, and your action as part of this fight. Together, we can build a movement to make sure early educators earn worthy wages for their worthy work.

The Power of Advocacy

The time to be an advocate for the early childhood workforce is now. Policymakers at every level are talking about child care more than ever before, and it's up to all of us to seize that opportunity and transform our early education system and prioritize the needs of early educators. Policymakers need to hear from you!

Elected officials – including the Governor, State Legislators, and your Members of Congress – want to represent the best interests of their constituents who live in their counties and districts. But very few elected officials have a background in child care, and many don’t have real-life experiences that help them understand the issues facing the early childhood workforce. They need the input of those who possess both the expertise and experience in child care in order to make the best decisions with the greatest impact.

And advocacy efforts extend beyond interacting with policymakers! To amplify your message and build greater public support, you can help by educating the public about the important role that early educators play in supporting young children's healthy development, working families, and our state's economy. This education can be as simple as a conversation with family, friends, or colleagues, raising awareness on social media, or using local media and events in your community to highlight key issues.

You can do this, and together, we can make a difference! We hope this toolkit will support you in your advocacy efforts for the early childhood workforce. For additional tips and guidance, please click below to watch a recording of a Worthy Wages Advocacy Training session.

Talking Points about the Early Education Workforce

North Carolina's depends on the early education workforce

  • Child care teachers are the workforce behind the workforce. Families rely on our early education system in order to keep working, and our state’s economy does, too.
  • A child's earliest years are a critical window of brain development. Early learning opportunities with a high-quality workforce lay the foundation for future success in school and in life.
  • Early educators are building brains and preparing the children who will be North Carolina's future workers, innovators, and leaders.

Child care teachers in the COVID-19 Crisis

  • Child care teachers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic since the beginning, risking their own health to care for children and support working families.
  • 1 in 5 teachers doesn't have health insurance during a pandemic, and many don't have access to paid sick leave to care for themselves or their own family.
  • Bonus payments helped to retain qualified child care teachers and staff, stabilize the current workforce, and recruit additional staff to sustain child care programs as parents return to work and program enrollment increases.
  • The state’s economic recovery and future prosperity depend on a strong early childhood workforce and child care system. Without it, North Carolina families won't be able to go back to work.

About the early education workforce

  • Child care teachers, overwhelmingly women and primarily women of color, earn an average of just $12/hour - less than $25,000/year - even with a degree.
  • Nearly 40% of child care teachers rely on some form of public assistance because of their unlivable wages. Child care teachers are 7 times more likely to live in poverty than public school kindergarten teachers.
  • Young children depend on stable, secure relationships and continuity of care to support their development. But with low pay and few benefits, turnover is high and 22% of teachers expect to leave the field within the next 3 years.
  • There is an acute workforce shortage and the talent pipeline is shrinking: fewer people than ever are pursuing a degree in the early childhood field. A bachelor’s degree in early childhood education is the college major with the lowest projected lifetime earnings.
  • Professional compensation and benefits are needed to recruit and retain a high-quality early childhood workforce.

The infant-toddler teacher wage gap

  • Babies' brains are built, not born. Infants and toddlers develop and learn through their relationships with the adults in their lives – parents, family members, and early childhood teachers.
  • Teachers working with infants and toddlers earn the least, regardless of educational level. This wage gap disproportionately affects people of color, who are more likely to work with younger age groups.
  • The wage gap between the earnings of those working with infants and toddlers and those working with preschool-age children undermines the ability to hire and retain staff during a child’s earliest years when research shows the brain is growing the fastest.
  • Fewer child care centers serve infants and toddlers because they lack the resources, including finding and affording qualified staff, to maintain these programs. This makes finding child care even more difficult for the more than 60% of parents with babies who are working.

Resources and Data

Data is one of the key factors that can help you "make the case" when advocating for the early childhood workforce. We are lucky in North Carolina to be home to Child Care Services Association (CCSA), who conducts comprehensive research on the workforce in our state. Nationally, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) conducts similar research for their semi-annual Workforce Index. Together, these two reports provide an in-depth look at the wages, benefits, education, experience, and wellbeing of North Carolina's early educators.

"Continuing to pay early educators poverty-level wages out of an expectation that women, especially women of color, will continue to do this work for (almost) free — either out of love for children or because they have few other options — perpetuates sexism, racism, and classism in the United States." - Early Childhood Workforce Index 2020

Sharing Your Story

"Higher wages would allow me take care of my own family. Because of the low wages associated with this field, I have no choice but to leave this occupation." - Krystle, child care teacher

"I cannot afford to live on the measly wages I am paid and have to rely on assistance and a second job to survive. I have a bachelor's degree and get paid less than most places of employment." - Katie, child care teacher

"We are brain architects, building the future of tomorrow, and our wages should reflect our value!" - Adrienne, child care teacher

Sharing your story about how low compensation for the early childhood workforce impacts you, your family, your child care program, or your community is the single most important thing you can do! There are many different ways to share your story when communicating with policymakers, the media, or even your own network of friends and colleagues. And, by sharing your story in several different ways – taking a “surround sound” approach – you can amplify your message, reach people in multiple ways, and make an even bigger impact.

Ways to share your story with policymakers:

  • Send an email
  • Make a phone call
  • Post a message on social media (and tag policymakers!)
  • Record a short video or post a picture on social media (and tag your legislators!)
  • Write a blog or newsletter article and share it online and with your network
  • Write an LTE or Op-Ed for your local newspaper
  • Share a story with us through our Action Center that we can use in our conversations with policymakers

Click here to download a worksheet to help you tell your story!

Contacting Policymakers

The following templates are provided as a guide to communicate with your own legislators and other key North Carolina legislators who will make decisions about this issue. Please edit these templates, and keep in mind that sharing your own personal story is always the most effective way to communicate with policymakers.

Below you will find contact information for key North Carolina legislators for this campaign. We also encourage you to always contact your own legislators too, even if they are not on this list. All legislators are important and want to hear from you as their own constituent, and every legislator votes on bills and budgets that impact this issue.

Not sure who your policymakers are?

Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool to share your story, raise awareness within your own network, and communicate with policymakers.

Use the button below to access a social media toolkit with sample messages and graphics, as well as guidance and tips for using social media.

Questions?

For questions, more information, and additional resources, please visit the NC Early Education Coalition's website or email us using the button below.

About the NC Early Education Coalition

The North Carolina Early Education Coalition works to ensure that all children - regardless of race, family income, or zip code - have access to high-quality early care and learning experiences. Since 1990, we have highlighted the proven power of quality early childhood education by sharing information and resources with parents, professionals and policymakers. The Coalition is the only statewide advocacy coalition dedicated to promoting high-quality, accessible, and affordable child care in North Carolina. We are also the backbone organization for the Think Babies™ NC Alliance, promoting effective and equitable policies to ensure all babies and their families have what they need to thrive. Our membership includes statewide organizations, regional and local child care agencies, child care providers and individuals committed to improving the quality of early education in North Carolina.

Thank you to our Worthy Wages Campaign sponsors!

The Worthy Wages Campaign is also sponsored in part by a grant from the North Carolina Early Childhood Compensation Collaborative.