Supporting quality means supporting teachers
Lauren Hogan is director of public policy at the National Black Child Development Institute, a partner in our High 5 for DC's Kids campaign.
Kids love giving hugs – and high fives. But we should have to earn their appreciation too, by standing up for them, especially when times are tough. Part of a real commitment to DC’s kids means making sure that they have “qualified and supported teachers,” beginning with the earliest ages. As DC Action for Children’s platform says, we need to “ensure that early care and education providers have the tools and resources they need, including professional development, sustained compensation and program evaluation.” How do we do this? Let’s break it down.
So what tools and resources do teachers actually need? To begin with, they need knowledge – about child development, assessment, curriculum, early literacy and math strategies, classroom management and special education, to name just a few! To learn all of this, teachers need high-quality, sustained and affordable professional development that builds theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
DC has made significant investments to help its teachers of children, birth through age 5, access higher education that can make a difference. The Early Childhood Higher Education Consortium and NBCDI’s T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood DC project are working together to promote and provide higher education for our city’s early care and education providers.
But this brings us to the (big) question of compensation. Although D.C. has made enormous strides in this area with the implementation, almost a decade ago, of a tiered reimbursement system, compensation remains a huge issue for the workforce. The median annual salary for a teacher with a CDA certification working in center-based care in DC is $23,200 – less than $1,000 above the federal poverty level for a family of four.
In this budget climate, it’ll be hard to look at increasing reimbursement rates – so we’ve got to think of other options. One thing we know is that education matters – in 2008, teachers with a BA+ earned 62.3% more than teachers with a CDA. More early education and care professionals need opportunities to access higher education that leads directly to higher salaries, and we are working to make this happen.
T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood DC requires that centers provide increased compensation, in the form of a raise or a bonus, to their teachers who have successfully completed their contract year. One of T.E.A.C.H.’s major goals is that 90% of scholarship recipients will see their compensation increase by a minimum of 3% at the end of each contract year – in exchange for which, they also promise to stay at the center for one year. Over time, this creates a big bump in our teacher’s paychecks and pockets – which is good for them, good for our kids (who get teachers that stick around) and good for our economy as a whole.
Kids deserve our investments and support – and then we’ll deserve their high fives.