Written by Terri Sims
July 8, 2021
Families are experiencing financial stress and early childhood educators with families are at the core of this crisis. There has been a tsunami of news articles highlighting that this pandemic shows the vital need of having child care centers so parents can work while trusting educators to keep their children safe and learning. We cannot rebuild our economy without valuing people who provide care and education. That means we must have high-quality child care centers where educators earn a living wage.
In Ohio, early care and education workers are paid on average nearly $10 an hour for the essential work they provide. These educators often have to rely on public assistance to make ends meet. Child care and early education teachers are chronically underpaid, and states and the federal government have historically underfunded the system.
The Ohio Senate 2022 budget proposal plans to provide more child care options for Ohioans while getting rid of the system that ranks and funds them. Known as the Step Up to Quality program, this system ranks child care providers in standards of education, health, and safety.
Part of the plan by the Senate eliminates the requirement that child care and early education centers achieve a quality of care rating to be eligible for public funding. Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, says the current program costs too much.
As a child care educator and a child care provider for nearly 30 years, I must stress that the Ohio Senate 2022 budget is heading in the wrong direction.
Last year the State of Ohio hailed the success of the Step Up to Quality with all centers reaching a one-star rating, with the mission of having all centers reaching a five-star rating by 2025.
We want more centers, but they must be high quality and ensure educators are valued and paid the wage they have earned. We need elected officials to raise the reimbursement rate, so child care centers can pay educators a living wage.
Congressional early care and education proposals would fund paying early child care workers and educators a minimum of $15 an hour, provide health care and other benefits, and make sure that compensation for early educators matches salaries for K-12 teachers with similar education and experience.
I believe that if we keep the Step Up To Quality rating system to help centers reach their goal of becoming high-quality centers, we then help build the next generation of workers.
A Community Change Action study of likely voters indicates that Americans - regardless of whether they have young children - support investing in child care to make it affordable and to pay early childhood educators a living wage. The survey shows that voters agree that wages for the early care and education workforce are too low and favor increasing compensation.
People call on Congress to invest $70 billion a year to build an agenda that makes early care and education free to low-income families and improving wages so that early education providers earn a comparable wage to K-12 teachers. We in Ohio join the national call and ask state legislators to help us improve our tools such as the Step Up To Quality system. Let’s work together to make our families thrive.
Dayton resident Terri Sims is an early childhood educator.