I have been in the field of child care and early childhood education for a little over nine years, taking positions of classroom float, cook, teacher from birth to 5 years of age, and my current role as an Early Pre-K teacher in a district-led program. What I have learned from a childcare worker perspective is that the quality in care and education in childcare are highly inconsistent.
The true goal of early care and education is to even the playing field for families who hail from lower socioeconomic households. When children live in families where both parents or caregivers work, many suffer academically as they are less exposed to language and activities that will scaffold growth and development and are ill-prepared for kindergarten. Early care is also a place of social emotional growth and competence, where patient teaching and problem solving model skills needed later in life. Though early childhood education is vital to our families and community, the lack of interest in the importance of the field has led to inconsistent practices being unregulated.
One of the highest levels of inconsistencies is found in the workforce and their approach towards early childhood education — from leadership that establishes requirements in both curriculum and care, but changes how that should be implemented based on staffing, preferences at that time and convenience; to staff that are overwhelmed with the constant changes in expectations and burn out too soon. There are also problems with low pay, as veteran workers who have over five years of experience are making at or below minimum wage; lack of support for promotion in the field; and those who attend school being penalized if they leave early to attend classes or need to adjust their schedule losing pay or having to call out sick because their request was denied.
These negative experiences accompany the dominant, but hopefully soon changing, idea that childcare is just glorified babysitting. As long as our community holds that ideology about early care, our high turnover of teachers whose administrators struggle to maintain properly trained staff will continue and our children will suffer.
Moving forward as a community and as parents, we need to make our legislators prioritize quality and consistent care and education for our children through better regulation of who will lead early care schools and higher pay to maintain dedicated staff and encourage promotion. We need to make sure all stages of education are foundationally and qualitatively strong in order for our children to truly thrive.
Learn more about how New York can fix child care funding in our brief, Fixing New York’s Broken Child Care Market. Learn more about changes New York needs to make to how it funds Pre-K education in our brief, Funding Universal Pre-Kindergarten Education.
Ira Brunson lives and works in Rochester as a Lead Early Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Friendship Children’s Center. She is studying at Monroe Community College and will later transfer to SUNY Brockport to complete her certificate in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. Ira was inspired to explore the field of early childhood education because she was intrigued by child development and making a positive impact on children’s growth is both exciting and fulfilling.
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The Children’s Agenda advocates for effective policies and drives evidenced-based solutions for the health, education and success of children. We are especially committed to children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health inequities and trauma.