Where have all the preschool teachers gone?


MADISON – Experts say the most critical generation, preschool aged children, are being undeserved because teachers don’t have the systems in place that they need to stay and thrive in the field.

There is no shortage of evidence that shows the direct correlation between quality early childhood education, and the successes children have in school and in life, but in Wisconsin, the quality of the teachers is diminishing.

“If you know that 52 percent of the childcare workforce in Wisconsin has at least an associate degree and that the average wage is $10 an hour, it’s not surprising that we’d have a teacher shortage,” said Ruth Schmidt, executive director of Wisconsin Early Childhood Association, to Wisconsin Public Radio, last week.

Last week, the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association held a panel discussion with seven experts from Madison higher education institutions to address the gaps in the teacher shortage.

Wisconsin Public Radio reports

Schmidt said the profession’s annual turnover rate is 35 percent, which is significantly higher than the state’s overall workforce turnover rate of 8 percent.

Child care workers also struggle to pay for higher education and training opportunities, according to a report by the association.

State legislators should put more funding into the T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship Program, which helps pay for child care workers’ higher education, Schmidt said.

However, Russ Whitewurst, senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, said investing in scholarships just makes it easier for child care workers to get higher degrees, which allows them to move into better paying education jobs in the K-12 system.

Katharine Stevens, resident scholar in early childhood at the American Enterprise Institute, also said research has shown continuing education isn’t the most effective way for child care workers to improve their skills.

“On the face of it, we’re used to thinking that way in our society, that people who have more degrees are just better, but in the case of early childhood at least, that’s not the case,” Stevens said. “It is the case that child care workers who have received onsite, ongoing training and coaching do improve in ways that directly impact children.”

For more on the childcare teacher shortage, visit Wisconsin Public Radio



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