(CTN News) – Thousands of low-paid early childhood educators care for the nation’s poorest children, yet some facilities may be forced to decrease enrollment due to a new plan from the Biden administration that could considerably improve compensation.
The proposed federal rule by the Health and Human Services agency would mandate that Head Start programs, which are facing staffing shortages around the country, increase teacher compensation to be competitive with local public school teachers and strengthen benefits.
Over the following seven years, the requirement has the potential to increase Head Start instructors’ compensation by $10,000, according to the organization.
“Early educators make poverty wages in many places,” commented Anna Markowitz, a professor from the University of California, Los Angeles, who has researched the turnover and wages in Head Start. “The effects of these low wages are substantial.” “We should not have waited for the turnover to become a major crisis,” she remarked.
Even though many Head Start teachers are required to hold a bachelor’s degree, they earn an average of $39,000 per year—much less than teachers with comparable degrees.
The federal government estimates that one out of every five Head Start instructors departed their classroom last year, increasing teacher turnover in the prior decade.
Because of that, issues have arisen for the country’s youngest students: Class sizes are decreasing, and waitlists are growing. The National Head Start Association reports that up to 275,000 children are on waiting lists for preschool programs across the country.
Locally administered classrooms in public and private schools, community centers, daycares and preschools provide free education and care to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers through this federally supported program. Head Start receives almost $12 billion in funding from taxpayers, serving around 1 million children.
Impact of Biden’s $1 Billion Head Start Proposal: Higher Salaries for Teachers, Possible Cut in Program Slots
However, if Congress does not allocate additional funds for the program and teacher pay increases, the number of students enrolled in schools could decrease. This year, Biden requested an extra $1 billion for Head Start from Congress.
“One potential impact could be a reduction in Head Start slots in some programs as a result of these necessary reforms in order to ensure the quality of services delivered,” the rule states.
The Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency’s vice president for early childhood education, Renee Daniel, stated that staffing shortages are preventing Head Start from serving over 2,000 students in the city. Currently, slightly over 1,500 children are enrolled in the program.