Julie Delair has operated her family child care home in Brunswick County since 2008. “I always remember thinking this was going to be my career. I always wanted to work with children,” she said.
She joined the Child Care WAGE$® Program at the entry-level of education, which at the time was six semester hours of early childhood coursework. She moved up the WAGE$ scale, earning higher awards each time, and now has her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. Getting her degree, though, was not easy, which is the case for many in the field who have the interest, but are faced with a variety of challenges.
Julie said that she had started college but life got in the way and she was unable to continue until she learned about the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program. “I had the interest, just not the funding. I couldn’t have done it otherwise. WAGE$ also prompted that educational movement because I saw what I could receive if I got my degree. The incentive was there.”
Getting her associate degree made her realize how much there was to learn. She loved learning and bringing that back to her class. It kept her fresh and she wanted to keep going.
She saw how much her education had impacted her teaching. “Going to classes gave me so many more ideas of working with children, what was developmentally appropriate [and] how to work with families. It expanded my knowledge in all areas. It definitely made me more confident, more professional. WAGE$ does that, too. It recognizes that early childhood is important to children, families and the community. We feel appreciated. People know it is important.”
Julie uses the WAGE$ funds in many ways, including to support her business. She provides new materials, toys and even playground equipment for the children she teaches, which she says they really love. “I often have them when they are very young until they go to kindergarten, so having new things really matters. I think the Child Care WAGE$® Program is very important, especially as an incentive to keep educators in the field. I have had my family child care home for over ten years and I credit the WAGE$ Program with my eagerness and even the ability to continue operating. The supplemental income allows me to provide quality care to the children, and I’m so grateful for it.”
Learn more about the Child Care WAGE$® Program here.
Learn more about the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program here.
As a teaching professional, Chatiba Bullock truly values her education and credits her continuous path to being a lifelong learner. “In order for me to motivate my teachers and team members, it’s important for them to see me working,” said Chatiba.
Chatiba works as Education Manager for Durham Head Start/Early Head Start while also furthering her early childhood development degree. She first began as an assistant teacher, quickly moved up to lead teacher and went on further to serve in the leadership position of center director.
Chatiba is also a Child Care WAGE$® recipient. “I really like WAGE$ because it gives you an incentive to keep learning,” she said. “The WAGE$ program really was [integral] in motivating me as an educator to want more and better myself.”
“I received an associates in early childhood education from Durham Tech Community College in 2005 and I went on to North Carolina Central University where I received my bachelor’s in family and consumer sciences with a concentration in child development in 2008,” Chatiba said. She didn’t stop there. “I received my Master’s in education in 2014 from Ashford University and then received some post-graduate certifications from Walden University in teacher leadership and childhood administration.
It wasn’t always Chatiba’s plan to work in early childhood education. Out of high school, she began as a business major. “It wasn’t until in ‘99, I started working at the Early Learning Center through the YMCA, they had their own child care center and I took on a part-time job as a floater, and I loved early childhood education,” Chatiba said.
While there, Chatiba realized something. “Working with kids and going to school for business, it just didn’t mesh. I like working with kids and I need to learn more about children,” she said.
“[My favorite part of being an educator is] the correlation between children and families. I think it’s actually working with children and families to help them understand the importance of education and how they can foster that love at home with their kids,” said Chatiba.
Her teaching style is shaped by “letting [the children] be the teacher and I’m the facilitator. I like to build lessons when I’m in the classroom. I’m not in the classroom as much anymore, but when I’m helping teachers understand their teaching style, my teaching style basically is the child’s interests and helping teachers facilitate that in their classroom,” said Chatiba.
By Tanya Slehria, Spring Communications Intern at CCSA
Tracy Pace’s favorite part of being an early childhood educator is “being there, being able to be an advocate for [children’s] success and being willing to listen and try to help parents reach out, find the resources [they need] and gain new skills.”
Tracy wears many hats in her role as a lead teacher at Nanna’s & Momma’s Child Care Center in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. “And my title kind of switches from day-to-day,” Tracy said. “It depends. I’m a very flexible person, but the majority of my time is used either as teaching in a classroom or in the office as an executive assistant.”
After high school, Tracy said, “I decided to get married instead of go to school…my husband and I were married for 5 years and our first child came along…We didn’t want them to do the same thing we’ve done. We wanted [them] to try to be smarter than that. So, we both had enrolled in school…Our second child came along and I just piddled here and there and did a class. So, it took me 26 years to get my associate’s degree and I’ve just done that this July ” from Blue Ridge Community College.
Tracy’s educational journey may be filled with twists and turns, yet her commitment to education and early childhood education has remained consistent throughout her 30-plus years in the field. While working toward her degree, she was still supporting her family of four children as well.
After graduating, Tracy enrolled in Brevard College. It was through her persistence and encouragement that they began offering a birth-to-kindergarten program and an education program for students to receive teaching licenses. She continued to pave her own path, and as she told Brevard, “I’d love to [enroll with] the T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship.” At the time, Brevard was not participating with CCSA’s T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program, but Tracy’s determination led them to offer the scholarship. “So, in 10 classes, I’ll have my Bachelor’s degree,” Tracy said.
Tracy’s involvement with T.E.A.C.H. began with her work at Nanna’s & Momma’s where she became a Child Care WAGE$® recipient. At the time, she was her mother’s full-time caregiver, a full-time student, a full-time employee and a full-time mother. She credits her ability to keep up with it all to the WAGE$ supplement.
“The [WAGE$] supplement has allowed me not to have [a second job] and to help me manage all these other different things, as first of all, a wife and mother, and second of all, someone who wants to give back to their community. Without [WAGE$], it wouldn’t have been possible,” said Tracy.
Tracy is as dedicated a teacher as she is a student. Her goal has always been to teach. Teaching “fits my family’s needs,” said Tracy.
Before her time in the classroom, Tracy worked as the assistant director for the Brevard Davidson River Presbyterian Church and was involved with various organizations. Her position helped her form a network of connections that serve as a benefit to her current role as an educator. “I think community resources is my biggest strength—those connections outside of this job and those I made before I got into this current job,” said Tracy. “I know people to call by name at the Social Services office. I would say that’s one of the biggest things for teachers, in general, is being able to know and have a list of those resources and know people by name.”
Tracy attributes her teaching style to her community. “I’ve grown a lot and become a lot more flexible as I understand and continue to try to edge out a living in the community that I’ve worked and raised my kids in and [one that] they would love to come back to,” she said. She also credits her passion for reading, “which has given me an understanding and [ability to find] solutions, or things I can try, and that not all kids are the same.”
“We know everything we need to know before we’re age 5. That’s the point and most people miss that. They think we’re not anything until we’re 5 and go to kindergarten, but every child learns all their coping skills, their ability to receive and give information before the age of 5,” said Tracy.
Determined. Dedicated. Committed. Those are just a few words that describe Child Care WAGE$® participant, Ellen Devenny. Ellen works as an assistant teacher at a five-star private NC Pre-K center in Gaston County and just graduated in May 2019 with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education with a 4.0 GPA. She walked across the stage at age 62.
Ellen was 50
years old when she started work on her degree. She said, “It has taken me a
long time, but I remained determined to see it through to completion. I would
not have been able to have done this without the support of programs like
T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$. Because of my education, I feel more confident as a
Ellen’s passion for her career and the children in her care is clear. “My favorite thing about working with young children is… everything! It is rewarding to see how they grow and learn new things during the school year. I love to see the child that struggled with feelings of insecurity walk away at the end of the year full of confidence. I love seeing children with special needs accomplish things that other children take for granted. I love working with children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and learning from each. This year, we have families representing China, Pakistan, Jordan, India, Columbia and Mexico. How can I not love working with young children?”
Fortunately for the children in her center, Ellen plans to remain in the field for as long as she can. “I began working with children in 1974, and that desire to continue has remained strong.”
“I had to work when I was 15 years old,” said WAGE$ participant Maria Milla. “My country, Honduras, is very difficult, very poor. I had to move to a bigger city and live with relatives to be able to study. I wanted to be a teacher, but that required day classes. I had to work during the day, so I studied something else, but my dream was always to be a teacher. When I played school as I child, I was always the teacher!” Maria’s dream came true when she moved to the United States.
Maria answered an advertisement for a child care center substitute and started learning about children, but she quickly realized how much more she needed and wanted to know. She kept working, took English (ESL) classes and then began her early childhood coursework. Maria started on the Child Care WAGE$® Program with the NC Early Childhood Credential (four semester hours) and now has her Birth-Kindergarten Bachelor’s Degree. She has moved up the WAGE$ scale many times, earning higher awards, and has remained at her current 5-star program since 2005. She is now only two classes away from earning her Birth to Kindergarten license.
Maria knows how much her education and consistency mean for the children and families she serves.
“I feel like the more education we have, the better we can do,” she said. “We learn about development and how we can help children grow and learn.”
The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Program helped her pay for classes; she says she couldn’t have done it otherwise. She’s proud of earning her degree, and she says WAGE$ helped her attain that goal.
“It helped with the financial component of taking classes. WAGE$ is a good motivator. I’m very thankful for all that WAGE$ and my partnership do with this incentive. I love my job and I’m happy, but I don’t make much money and this incentive helps a lot of us stay in our jobs. WAGE$ helps everybody. It helps children have the same teachers. Children feel safe, secure and happier. It helps parents feel more trust. They can leave their child with someone who has been there a long time rather than someone who comes and goes. It helps families because we don’t have to charge them more than they can pay. It helps the teachers a lot.”
Maria joked that despite her years of education in the United States, her English continues to improve with the help of the children in her class.
“I tell them to let me know if I say something wrong. They do! They correct me!” Laughing, Maria said, “Teaching is my passion. I want to stay in the classroom.”
By Marsha Basloe, President, Child Care
Working Parents Need Access to Quality Child Care – More Support Needed
for Child Care Workforce
Currently, throughout North Carolina, nearly half a million (457,706) children under age six live in a family where all parents in the household are working. Many of these children are in some type of child care setting every week so that their parents can obtain and retain jobs that sustain and grow our state’s economy.
A study by the Committee for Economic Development (CED) shows that child care as an industry has an economic impact in North Carolina of $3.15 billion annually ($1.47 billion in direct revenue and $1.67 billion in spillover in other industries throughout our counties and cities). Child care programs have an overall job impact throughout the state of 64,852, which includes 47,282 individuals who are employed within child care centers or who operate a home-based business plus another 17,570 in spillover jobs – created through the activity of those operating child care programs. The economic impact of child care matters because it helps drive local economies. When parents can access child care, they are more likely to enter the workforce and stay employed.
The Child Care
Workforce: Early Brain Builders
What we know is that child care is not only a work support for parents but also an early learning setting for young children. Research shows that a child’s earliest years are when the brain is developing the fastest – forming a foundation for all future social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. During this time, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second. This is important to understand because both parents and child care providers play an important role in supporting healthy child development – helping to shape the brain’s foundation for all future learning (e.g., school readiness and school success).
Because both genes and experiences impact a child’s brain development, the child care workforce plays a critical role in supporting early learning. In essence, they are brain builders – working with children to support a strong foundation on which later learning depends – just like the foundation for a house, all floors above the basement depend on the construction or sturdiness of the basement.
The Workforce that
Supports All Other Workforces
Despite the important role that child care educators play in supporting our next generation (as well as supporting the ability of parents to work), the current economic model for child care programs falls short of supporting child care workers in a way that recognizes their role in child development. How so? The operating budget for child care programs is based on parent fees and state subsidies paid for low-income children.
Because the current cost of child care in North Carolina is so high (e.g., $9,254 annually for center-based infant care), program directors try to keep costs down because they know parents can’t pay more. However, what this translates to is low wages for the child care field. In today’s economy, where the fast-food industry and retail sales pay higher hourly wages and often offer benefits, the competition for the workforce to enter the early childhood field is steep. In fact, the early childhood field is experiencing a workforce crisis.
In North Carolina, the median wage earned for child care teachers is about $10.97 per hour ($22,818 per year if full time) and assistant teachers earn $9.97 per hour. These wages represent a modest 0.7% increase in buying power despite much larger gains in education. The study also found that statewide, 39% of teachers and teacher assistants had needed at least one type of public assistance (e.g., TANF, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, etc.) in the past three years.
Child Care Services Association (CCSA) is conducting a county-level early childhood workforce study for the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) that will be completed in August 2020. Once completed, North Carolina will have additional information.
For context, many child care educators are supporting their own families. With these wages, they fall well short of the level that qualifies them for public food assistance benefits (e.g., a family of three with income under $27,000 per year qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP). It’s not hard to understand that workers in low wage jobs face stresses in making ends meet, in supporting their own families and in parking their stress outside the classroom door when working with young children.
In North Carolina, the
state funds two programs administered by CCSA to support the early childhood
Child Care WAGE$® Program, which provides education-based salary supplements to low paid teachers, directors and family child care educators working with children ages birth to five. The program is designed to increase retention, education and compensation. The Child Care WAGE$® Program is a funding collaboration between local Smart Start partnerships (55 partnerships) and the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE). Salary supplements are earned – tied to the recipient’s level of education, with teachers and family child care providers awarded on a different scale than directors.
These strategies are invaluable to better support the child care workforce for the important work that they do. It raises salaries sometimes almost a dollar an hour. You can see the impact of these programs on our website. This is an investment in the workforce that supports all other workforces, AND also an investment that results in better outcomes for our children (e.g., brain-building that leads to school readiness). We hope these programs will grow in the years ahead to support our early childhood educators who care for our young children and families.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the work of our early educators. It is time for our communities to think about compensation for the early childhood workforce in a manner that reflects their contribution to our state’s prosperity.
“I don’t always look back at my own journey. Doing so lets me know I’ve been through a lot and I made it. I’m still making it. I’ll have my Bachelor’s degree soon!” Naukisha Wray-Darity is now back in school after many years without the financial means to do so. She had exhausted her pell grant and federal funding on past education and her center was not originally participating in the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program because they did not fully understand how cost-effective it could be. Things are different now.
Naukisha teaches in the center her sister owns. Her sister tried to convince Naukisha to join her in the early childhood field when she first opened her program, but it wasn’t until after Naukisha had her son that she realized she had a gift. She created learning tools for him and her nephew and was helping them both learn through play. She decided she could help other children, too. She started working in the afterschool program and then became the full-time teacher for 3- and 4-year olds. “I fell in love with it,” she said.
Although Naukisha had already earned a two-year degree in another field, her success working with children made her want to share and learn more, so she completed her associate degree in Early Childhood Education and enough coursework to earn additional degrees, including an associate in Special Education. But that wasn’t enough. “I preach to my children all the time about the importance of college and degrees, and I wanted to meet the same standard I was setting for them.” The problem was finding the money to do it once her other options were exhausted. She said, “We really didn’t understand T.E.A.C.H. – what the percentages meant.” After talking with another participating center, they decided to give it a try.
Now Naukisha is on a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship and she continues to receive her Child Care WAGE$® supplements. She has been on WAGE$ since 2009, with ever-increasing supplement awards that reflected her ongoing education. “WAGE$ has helped me want to continue on with school,” Naukisha shared. “As a single mom at the time, my checks have helped me pay for child care and feed my kids. It helped me pay for books and classes. I don’t know what it hasn’t helped me do! Without WAGE$, it would be hard to stay in the business even though I love it. It has saved me from leaving the industry. I remember when my boys were starting school one year and I didn’t have the funds to buy what they needed. I had no idea how I was going to get through it. That Saturday, the WAGE$ check came. It was like Christmas because I could make sure my children had what they needed. They didn’t understand how hard things were for me.”
Naukisha uses her story to provide encouragement to other teachers in her child care program.
Tomonica Rice-Yarborough and Kathy Thornton from
CCSA’s Professional Development Initiatives Team
World Teacher’s Day was established
in 1994 to recognize and celebrate teachers all over the world for their
hard work and dedication. It also brings to light the issues affecting the
profession to work toward a resolution for retaining and attracting teachers to
the field. This day was founded to celebrate public school teachers, but early care educators also should be recognized on this
day because they’re instrumental to the growth and development of our children.
Their contributions to society’s economic stability should be valued,
recognized and celebrated.
One of the main issues facing early care educators is the little
recognition or validation they receive for the pivotal roles they play in the
lives and development of young children. As a field, early educators in North
Carolina often hold degrees, but they earn significantly less than public school
teachers. According to CCSA’s 2015 North Carolina Child Care Workforce Study, the median wage of center directors in North Carolina was
$16.00 per hour, while teachers earned $10.97 per hour and assistant teachers
earned $9.97 per hour.
Although degree attainment has drastically increased in North Carolina, the field as a whole still suffers from being perceived as a high priced “babysitting service.” For 30 years, the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program has provided the workforce with access to a debt-free college education while they work as low wage earners teaching future doctors, lawyers, teachers, administrative assistants, scientists…
Our brains grow
faster between the ages of birth and 3 than any other time in our life.
Children who are formally cared for in early education settings outside of
their homes depend on the early educator to support their developmental growth.
Those years are particularly formative, making the role of the early educator
even more critical. According to philosopher John Locke, “a child’s mind is a
blank slate waiting to be filled with knowledge.” Early educators play a big
part in setting the foundation for our children’s future.
On Sept. 4, 2019, Australia celebrated Early Childhood Educators’ Day to honor and appreciate early childhood educators. The world, like Australia, should have a day set aside to recognize early childhood educators. Sadly, early childhood educators are seldom during the World Teacher’s Day observance. This lends credence to the perception that early childhood education isn’t seen as a worthy profession. Why can’t we dedicate a day of observance to them?
Allison Miller, VP of Compensation Initiatives at CCSA
Australia has the right idea. They celebrate Early Educator’s Day on
September 4, 2019. We should do the same! We have National Provider’s Day in
May, but shouldn’t we celebrate teachers who work with our young children at
every opportunity? They deserve our recognition; children need them, parents
need them and the nation needs them. They truly are the workforce behind the
Workforce Behind the Workforce Deserves Better Compensation
Early educators make it possible for other professionals to go to
their jobs, to lend their expertise to the community, to grow the economy. To
be productive in the workforce, parents need peace of mind that can only come
from knowing their children are in safe, stable, positive and engaging
environments with teachers who can appropriately guide their learning.
It’s a lot to expect when early childhood teachers, on average, earn $10.97 per hour in North Carolina. It’s not an easy problem to solve because most parents cannot afford to pay more than they do. That’s where the Child Care WAGE$® Program comes in.
Compensation Strategy: The Child Care WAGE$® Program
Early educators deserve to be paid commensurate with their education and the importance of their jobs. Sadly, that’s simply not the case. The Child Care WAGE$® Program is an education-based salary supplement program for teachers, directors and family child care providers working with children birth to five. Awards are issued after the eligible participant has completed at least six months with the same child care program.
As a result of this additional compensation, early educators not only
earn more, but they are more likely to stay and increase their education. The
quality of child care is improved when turnover rates are low, education is
high and compensation is fair.
WAGE$ is made possible with the funding provided by the local Smart
Start partnerships that elect to participate and the NC Division of Child
Development and Early Education.
Yes! In the fiscal year 2018-2019, WAGE$ recipients from the 55 participating N.C. counties earned an average six-month supplement of $974, which breaks down to about $.94 more per hour for full-time employment. The vast majority of participants had at least a two-year degree with significant early childhood coursework and they stayed in their programs. Only 14% left their employers last year, which is notably lower than turnover rates prior to WAGE$ availability.
In addition to the program results of increased education, retention
and compensation, WAGE$ recognizes the importance of early educators and the
key role they play in our lives. It is a way to show appreciation and to boost
morale for an underpaid workforce.
In fact, 97% of survey respondents said that WAGE$ makes them feel
more appreciated and recognized for their work.
The feedback of participants always highlights this message.
One teacher shared, “WAGE$ has shown the
value of giving incentives to teachers.
Teachers need to feel appreciated and rewarded. All teachers deserve a chance to feel special
and loved; that is how WAGE$ makes me feel.”
We all need to take the time to show our appreciation to this
workforce. They deserve it. Happy Early Educator’s Day!
Kellie Toney is an early childhood educator in Cleveland County. As a recipient of Child Care WAGE$®, she sent the following letter to her North Carolina legislators:
“I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your support of the WAGE$ program funded through Smart Start. Without this supplement, I would not have had the opportunity to complete my Bachelor’s degree while working as an assistant teacher with Cleveland County Schools. The checks I have received through this program have [gone] towards my tuition and textbooks. Without this program, I likely would not have been able to get through school without student loans. Thank you so much for supporting this program, which played such a vital role in the completion of my Birth-Kindergarten Education Bachelor’s degree. This program truly helps those of us shaping the youngest minds through private child care and public education.”
Kellie began her career in early
childhood education as an assistant teacher in Head Start. “I love children. I
love to be there for all of the ‘firsts’ in learning. When children arrive in
NC Pre-K and Head Start, most have never been in [child care] or spent very
much time learning. I am there to guide them as they begin to write their name,
interact with peers and explore the world around them,” Kellie said.
After some time, Kellie began
wanting a role where she could plan what to teach the children, so she decided
to go back to school to complete her Birth-Kindergarten Education Bachelor’s
degree from East Carolina University.
With high college tuition,
textbooks and transportation expenses, Kellie’s husband had to work overtime to
help her afford to go back to school. They also took out a home equity line to
pay for some of her classes.
Fortunately, through Child Care Connections and a college instructor from Cleveland Community College, Kellie heard about Child Care Services Association’s Child Care WAGE$® compensation program. “WAGE$ helped me to graduate debt-free. With the help of WAGE$ funds and Education Incentive Grants, I did not ever need to take out student loans. I was able to save these funds and used them to pay for textbooks, coursework and required trips to East Carolina University,” Kellie said, “With the WAGE$ funds, we paid back [our] loans and used the remaining funding to pay for new coursework.”
Kellie felt compelled to contact and thank her legislators for their support of Smart Start, which the Cleveland County Partnership for Children, Inc. used to provide WAGE$. “WAGE$ enabled me to continue my education. This in turn benefits my students because I was equipped with the skills and knowledge to better educate my students… I want to ensure funds are available for [all] teachers.”