States stuck trying to fix child care wages as feds drop the ball

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Editor’s note: This story led off this week’s Early Childhood newsletter, which is delivered free to subscribers’ inboxes every other Wednesday with trends and top stories about early learning. Subscribe today!

Earlier this year, I spent some time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin learning about local efforts to draw new early childhood teachers into the field by creating programs that allow high school students to earn credentials and by offering free, supportive routes for current teachers to pursue degrees. As I interviewed experts about these efforts, I heard one resounding conclusion: Programs like these are important, but without increasing worker pay to make the job tenable in the long term, these could be short-term solutions. Although several of the programs I profiled in Milwaukee led to higher wages for workers, not all centers can afford to increase hourly pay.

Legislation proposed by the Biden administration would have helped address the lack of adequate pay by providing more funding for the child care industry and boosting the minimum wage of child care workers. In 2021, workers in this field made a mean annual wage of $27,680, or $13.31 per hour, an amount that varies depending on the type of center and age of children receiving care. The legislation is currently stalled in Congress.

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