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Perspective | NC must prioritize a diverse early childhood educator workforce

On Dec. 10, Gov. Roy Cooper met with others across North Carolina at the DRIVE Summit, the state’s commitment to better recruiting, developing, supporting and retaining educators of color. Child Care Services Association (CCSA) is proud to see North Carolina moving toward a more diverse educational workforce in the K-12 school system. Our early childhood educators already represent the diversity of our state, but earn significantly less than K-12 educators.

CCSA supports North Carolina’s diverse early childhood workforce through our programs T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholarship North Carolina, Child Care WAGE$ North Carolina and Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$, which are funded from federal and state funds through the Department of Health and Human Services.

T.E.A.C.H. offers educational scholarships to early care professionals and those who perform specialized functions in the early care system. The demographics of T.E.A.C.H. recipients more closely reflect the demographics of the early childhood workforce. Only 47% of students enrolled in early childhood education programs in North Carolina colleges (not receiving T.E.A.C.H. scholarships) are people of color, while in 2018-2019, 50% of T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipients were people of color.

WAGE$ provides education-based salary supplements to early childhood professionals working with children from birth to 5 years old, which is shown to increase retention, education, and compensation of the early childhood workforce. Ninety-nine percent of WAGE$ participants are women and 57% are people of color.

AWARD$ is similar to WAGE$ but is provided to infant-toddler educators with an associate degree or bachelor’s degree who earn significantly less than early childhood educators of 3- to 5-year-olds. In this past fiscal year, 62% of AWARD$ active participants were people of color.

For the past 30 and 25 years, respectively, T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$ have encouraged a diverse population to pursue education and stay in the early childhood workforce. Given the diverse population of children attending child care in North Carolina, this educational equity is crucial, because we know representation empowers and supports children right from the start.

We thank Gov. Cooper and others at the DRIVE Summit for pushing the state to take action. Both early childhood and K-12 need a diverse and well-compensated workforce ensuring every North Carolina child’s early years are happy, stable, and secure.

We are pleased to be leading this effort in the early childhood arena. For more information on Child Care Services Association programs, visit our website.

Marsha Basloe

Marsha Basloe is president of the Child Care Services Association.