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Challenges in early childhood education

Child care providers, advocates and parents last week gathered at the Northeast Family YMCA to discuss what they said are low wages for workers and how that hurts children, educators, parents, businesses and the economy overall.

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The panel consisted of Shaun Elliott, president and CEO, Greater Philadelphia YMCA; Donna Cooper, executive director, Children First; Mai Miksic, Early Childhood Education Policy Director, Children First; Milagros Battiti, early educator, Kinder Academy; Adria Godfrey, early educator, Special People In Northeast Inc.; Sheila Moses, parent and former early educator; and Steve Doster, state director, Council For A Strong America.

State Reps. Martina White and Joe Hohenstein and state Sen. Jim Dillon listened from the front row.

Panelists and guests in the crowd spoke of how poor hourly wages for early learning teachers result in stress, burnout and resignations. As a result of resignations, there is a shortage of teachers, meaning long waiting lists for parents to enroll their children. For parents with kids on waiting lists, that means no affordable, quality care.

Those parents miss work or better job prospects because they have to take care of their kids at home.

In Philadelphia, early childhood education teachers make an average of $14.37 an hour on average. That pay doesn’t come close to matching the cost of living and the high cost of food, utilities, housing and insurance. Many early childhood educators are forced to sign up for food stamps and Medicaid. Others take jobs with better pay and benefits in fields outside education.

Providers in the city have more than 600 open positions, which, if filled, would get 2,800 children off waiting lists and into classrooms and their parents back to work.

Providers, advocates and parents want a permanent stream of government funding, rather than one-time infusions. Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed more funding in his budget, but some at the event contended it’s not enough. ••

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