Adult watching preschool children color with crayons

Early childhood powerfully impacts life trajectories, including educational, employment, economic, and health outcomes. Early childhood professionals aren’t babysitters. They nurture the healthy development of young children. They encourage exploration, discovery, and a love of learning. They set children on a positive trajectory and promote school readiness. Early childhood professionals can positively impact hundreds of children throughout their careers.

The NRV has an early childhood workforce crisis – a severe shortage of qualified early educators, harmful levels of stress and teacher turnover primarily due to poverty-level pay. The workforce crisis is negatively impacting the quality of our early childhood programs and therefore the children they serve.

Excellent early educators are the foundation of quality early childhood programs, which yield immediate and lifelong benefits. We need to keep excellent early educators in the classroom inspiring lifelong learners, not leaving for better pay in restaurants and retail.

The Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) awarded Smart Beginnings NRV a 2019 Data Initiative Grant to collect and analyze early childhood workforce data, including data on credentials, education, early childhood experience, participation in professional development, compensation, and benefits, future career plans, and more. The NRV Early Childhood Workforce Report will be released in September 2019. Some initial findings include:

-Despite the importance of their work to the current and future workforce, the national average hourly wage of an early childhood educator is $12.93. The average wage is even lower in the NRV -- $9.94 per hour.

-On average, NRV early educators with a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential earn $11.01 per hour. The national average is $12.80.

-Almost 60% of NRV early educators are living below 200% of the federal poverty line. Almost 20% are living below 100% of the federal poverty line. *based on household income/members with a sample size of 190 teachers 

-Only 22% of NRV early educators receive insurance coverage through their employers. 15% are on Medicaid and an additional 15% are uninsured. 

-Half of NRV early educators have no degree beyond a high school diploma.

-Half of NRV early educators report a high-stress level, and two-thirds report challenges due to high turnover and vacancies.

-95% of early childhood educators are women.

For years, families living and working in the NRV have experienced challenges obtaining affordable, high-quality childcare. As the region continues to grow, so will the demand for such services. In order to give NRV children a great start and the opportunity to succeed in school and life, we need professionals to be prepared for their important roles and properly compensated for their valuable contributions.

Smart Beginnings NRV is working with partners to build on these findings and develop a plan to cultivate a highly competent, credentialed, and competitively compensated early childhood workforce. This plan will highlight the unique challenges facing the profession in our region, as well as opportunities for local advocacy and investment. Our region’s commitment to our youngest citizens must include a demonstrated commitment to the professionals entrusted with their care and education. Together, the NRV can transform the early childhood profession and make the NRV the best place to live, work, raise a family, AND grow up.

For further information, please contact Meghan Pfleiderer (meghan@nrvrc), 540-639-9313, ext. 213.