Developing a strong workforce for infant and toddler care

In D.C., there's been a strong focus on developing the early childhood workforce -- primarily for preschool and Pre-K. The Universal Pre-K legislation, passed in 2008 and amended in 2010, requires lead preschool and Pre-K classroom teachers to obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree in a related field by 2014. That's a tall order, considering that many early childhood teachers in the District lack the necessary prerequisites to enroll in college-level courses. Also, many teachers work full-time and have young children of their own.

However challenging it may be, supporting professional development for early childhood teachers is necessary and important. Mayor Gray's proposed FY 2012 budget for OSSE includes $1.5 million for preschool/Pre-K teacher training. DC Action Executive Director HyeSook Chung raised her concerns about the funding in her testimony for the OSSE budget hearing:

"Last year, OSSE re-allocated the professional development line-item dedicated to Pre-K teacher training. We should clarify – it was not for training but for the continued funding for the Early Childhood Leadership Institute (ECLI) based at University of District of Columbia (UDC). We expressed concern this time last year for the targeted funding for just Pre-K teachers, since this was leaving out infant/ toddler teachers, health professionals and home visitation staff. In addition, our biggest concern was that the oversight of the allocation for the $850,000 allocation was in the oversight responsibility of the Board of Directors of UDC. We have requested to see the progress of the training to date to no avail. This year’s additional $1.5 million into Pre-K teacher training is again not the most effective use of ensuring overall quality for programs serving young children."

A recent issue brief from the national policy organization Zero to Three emphasizes the importance of investing in workforce development for infant and toddler care. In particular, the report stresses the need for cross-sector collaboration to accomplish this goal. I found it particularly surprising that a national survey from 2006 that found that nearly a half of all early childhood bachelor's programs and a third of associate's degree programs do not require any coursework on infants and toddlers.

Click here to view the Zero to Three report or read the review from the Early Ed Watch blog at the New America Foundation.