Elevating early childhood educators through recruitment and retention efforts seeks to provide solutions, supports, and pathway for profession
On May 11, the Maine State Chamber submitted testimony in support of LD 1652, An Act To Build a Child Care System by Recruiting and Retaining Maine's Early Childhood Educators Workforce. This bill offers a solution to Maine’s understaffed early childcare programs. The bill increases wages in the field to help with demand and retention. The bill also creates more pathways to early childcare careers and boosts the quality of early childcare providers by expanding early childhood education programs at career and technical education centers, increasing apprenticeships at childcare programs, and providing scholarships toward associate and bachelor’s degrees in early childhood education.
Maine has already worked to pass a bill that increases high school teacher pay due to the many benefits students receive when teachers are lifted out of poverty. While the focus has been on high school teachers, it is important to know that early childcare educators are paid 25% less than their K-8 colleagues and that their poverty rate is 8.3x higher. Wage increases will increase the supply of early childcare educators, helping to solve the shortage issue. It will also make the field more competitive, ultimately increasing the quality of early childcare education. The bill does this in a way that does not impact the family’s ability to afford childcare. Aside from wage increases, the other system changes proposed in the bill will generate additional pathways to the field while ensuring that these new early childcare providers are properly qualified.
Families and employers will benefit because families will be less apt to make hard decisions about how to afford or find childcare. This will allow single parents to know that their child is receiving quality care while they are at work, and two parent families will be more likely to have both parents able to pursue careers. Families will have less unnecessary stress, and employers will have an opportunity to hire new talent as parents who were once forced out of the workforce begin reentry.
Also this week, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce attended the first installment of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Business Leads Fellowship Program Speaker Series. Simon West, human resources director for the Maine State Chamber, was chosen as one of 38 Fellows across 25 states to be a part of the program. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation uses this program to create future leaders who can help solve complex workforce and education issues.
The first of the Speaker Series featured Lindsay Fryer and Audrey Pittman from the Penn Hill Group. The discussion centered on the American Rescue Plan and how funding to schools is distributed directly to state and district level education agencies. The presentation covered topics such as the amount of funding, where it comes from, and how/when it must be spent. Schools have a significant amount of agency with regards to how to use funds. If we can answer the questions: “Does this help get students back in school?” and “Does this prevent, minimize, or reverse learning loss?” then schools can focus on projects that fit their specific needs. Arguably the most difficult task for schools is how to reverse learning loss in a way that does not overwhelm and turn away vulnerable students permanently.
If you would like more information about the issues discussed in this article, please contact Simon West by calling (207) 623-4568, ext. 117, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.