Will the Economy Kill Early Childhood Education?
|June 2, 2011||Posted by M. P. under Budget, Education, Policy, Research, Youth Development||
The 2005 report Losing Ground in Early Childhood Education by Stephen Herzenberg, Mark Price and David Bradley, from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Keystone Research Center (KRC) concluded that early child education (ECE) in America had reached a point of reckoning, as it was no longer able to successfully recruit and retain the most educated childhood development professionals.
Using data from the Community Population Survey between the years of 1983 and 2004, the researchers identified a decline in the education level of ECE educators, noting that in 1983-84, 43 percent held a 4-year college degree as opposed to 30 percent in 2002-04. Home-based ECE programs especially suffered a decline in staff qualifications with less than 50 percent of the workers having any post-secondary education. Possible reasons for the change in workforce education attainment included low wages, poor or no benefits offered to staff and expanded career opportunities (that paid better) for female college graduates.
Six years after this publication, it appears that little has changed to improve the state of ECE, in fact, due to the recession’s impact on state and federal budgets, much of education funding is in jeopardy. Austerity measures have lead to the removal of full-day kindergarten from some Pennsylvania school districts. At least one district recently cut kindergarten from their education budget completely. These cuts have been made despite numerous research studies that provide evidence of the positive behavioral and academic impacts of ECE on children and a cost-benefit analysis that finds ending ECE may cost more than maintaining it.
Reading the KRC’s report in this time of budget battles and beleaguered taxpayers has me wondering what the future holds for early childhood care, education and intervention. Is ECE now considered a luxury? Is child development a field not worthy of a competitive wage? With older, college-educated teachers reaching retirement age, budget cuts, closing programs and frozen wages, the availability and quality of future ECE programs remains uncertain at best.