Low Child Care Wages and High Turnover Shortchange PA Kids

Child Care Centers Losing More Educated Staff, New Report ShowsLow Salaries and High Turnover Jeopardize Quality Children Pay the Price
Date of Press Release: 
October 16, 2001

Harrisburg, October 16, 2001 - Low salaries and high turnover threaten the quality of early education and child care in Pennsylvania, according to new surveys of child care providers analyzed in a report by the Keystone Research Center released today. Joined by a half dozen state lawmakers at an 11 a.m. press conference in the Capitol Media Center, early childhood advocates called on Governor Schweiker to make children a priority.

"This study confirms what the field already knows, that there has been a steady erosion in the education levels of child care staff," says Catherine Repman of York Day Nursery and Kindergarten. "Our children are the ones who will pay the price."

In Fall 2000 and Spring 2001, Gateways partnerships in Allegheny County ("Pathways for Early Education Professionals"), Southeast Pennsylvania ("Gateways SE PA") and York County ("Focus on Our Future") surveyed 225 child care centers and 120 home-based providers. They sought to measure key dimensions of child care providers that determine quality, including education levels, wages, benefits, and turnover.

Key findings from the three surveys are summarized in the new KRC Briefing Paper, Low Child Care Wages and High Turnover Shortchange Pennsylvania Children, written by David H. Bradley.

  • Turnover rates in Pennsylvania child care centers remain high. Annual turnover rates range from 30 percent for teachers to 50 percent for aides.
  • Education levels of staff have declined. The percentage of teachers and aides with a bachelor's degree has declined from 28 percent according to a 1998 legislative survey to 23 percent based on the Gateways surveys. Since 1998, the share of center staff without a high school diploma or GED has risen from 1 percent to 3 percent.
  • Wages of child care teachers and aides are half -- or less -- of what workerswith the same amount of education make in other Pennsylvania industries. In child care centers, hourly wages are $6.39 for child care aides ($13,000 annualsalary), $7.27 per hour for assistant teachers, and $9.30 per hour for head teachers ($19,400 annual salary). Wages for teachers and aides as a group have failed to keep pace with inflation, falling more than 2 percent since 1998.

"It is bad enough to lose people to the school district, but we lose staff to McDonalds and Chick-Fi-Le where they can make more money," said Juanda Taylor, Assistant Group Supervisor at Allegheny Child Care Academy in Philadelphia. According to Stephen Herzenberg, Executive Director of Keystone Research Center, "Child care programs are a revolving door.

The survey showed that two-thirds of aides and 40 percent of teachers have been at their current center for less than two years." "Pennsylvania is sitting on a pile of unspent Federal child care dollars." says Sharon Ward of Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth. "These funds cannot be used to balance the budget or for tax rebates. They can be used to stop the drain of degreed teachers from child care programs. We have the financial means to take steps to reduce turnover and give our children a brighter future."

To improve staff compensation and retention, early childhood education advocates from across the state formed a statewide initiative called QUEST (Quality Early Education through Salaries and Training). QUEST is calling on Governor Mark Schweiker and the legislature to make children priority one in the next budget by funding three key programs:

1) Fund bonuses up to $3,000 for child care staff based on their level of education;

2) Fund the Keystone Stars program that would give additional resources to programs that meet higher quality standards; and

3) Expand funding for the T.E.A.C.H. PA Early Childhood Scholarship Program that pays for additional education for child care staff.