What is High-quality Child Care?
High-quality child care supports healthy child development and takes advantage of amazing opportunities that exist in the first five years of life — when 90 percent of brain development occurs.
At the heart of high-quality programs are caring, nurturing teachers who support child development and help children build foundational skills that enable success. This teaching doesn’t take place with noses in textbooks, and it might look different than you picture “traditional education.” Early education is hands-on. By inspiring curiosity, stimulating imagination and improving social skills, teachers use intentional interactions to wire children’s brains for success.
Why is Quality so Important?
At some point in or country’s history it was decided that education should start at age 5. Now we know a great deal more about what happens in a child’s brain before kindergarten, and we know this development can impact the rest of their life.
With children spending more time in care than ever before, the focus on quality is more important than ever. Research shows attending high-quality child care significantly increases a child’s likelihood of being successful in school, and reduce the likelihood of suffering negative experiences like incarceration and addiction. Investments in early education also generate significant saving for taxpayers by reducing demand on the social service sector.
Why is child care so expensive?
Child care costs vary greatly, but there’s one thing we can all agree on. With an average cost of infant care around $10,000 per year, it’s expensive.
While the cost of care can be a major drain on parents’ bank accounts, it’s not exactly paying dividends for teachers. With the average earnings for child care workers at about $10 per hour, early educators aren’t coming out on top. Furthermore, many teachers don’t receive medical benefits or vacation pay.
Most program owners and operators aren’t faring much better. Many struggle to keep their programs in operation as they’re confronted with the reality that parents can’t afford their services and they can’t afford to offer further discounts.
The reality is, our current model is flawed. At the most basic level, child care is a labor intensive and expensive service to provide. Even at rates that are a serious financial burden for some, and far from reach for many, the numbers simply don’t add up.
In Missouri, one teacher can care for four infants. If those four children generate $40,000 in revenue, after subtracting food, facility and operations expenses (roughly 35 percent) and paying taxes, there’s not much left for teacher or owners.
How can we make child care work for parents and teachers?
The reality is: tuition isn’t enough to provide the type of care young children need while adequately compensating early educators. The median salary for a kindergarten teacher, however, is around $40,000 per year, and includes medical insurance and paid leave. We need to start treating child care like the vital community service it is, like we treat K-12 education.
We need to find ways to supplement tuition with public funding, because early education impacts us all. We all share the burden when we fail children, and we all reap the rewards when children and families succeed.
Find out how you can advocate for investments in early education.
How can we influence political leaders to invest in ECE?
Unfortunately, the ones who have the most to win and lose in this don’t have voices of their own. As invested community members and voters, we need to let elected officials know that we value early education and want them to work on solutions for children, families and teachers. Don’t be afraid to contact your elected officials and let them know how early care and education issues have affected you and your family.
Find out how you can contact your representatives.