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Preschool California: National Study Raises Alarm About Declining Preschool Teacher Qualifications and Low Pay


OAKLAND, Calif., Sept. 15 -- Preschool California issued the following response to the Economic Policy Institute report: “Losing Ground in Early Childhood Education,” which was released today:

The report uses U.S. Census and Current Population Survey (CPS) data to show that since the early 1980’s, qualifications and pay for those who teach young children have steadily declined. In California, only one-quarter (25 percent) of teachers and administrators in center-based early childhood education programs have a 4-year degree. That’s below the national average of 30 percent. These figures are dramatically lower for educators in home-based settings -- just 9 percent in California have a degree. California’s early childhood teachers and center administrators -- almost exclusively women -- earn on average half the salary of women with college degrees. In California, the median ECE wage is $11.33 per hour (well under half the average hourly compensation for kindergarten teachers, and well below the statewide median hourly wage of $15.36, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics).

“The study’s findings are alarming, but they shouldn’t surprise anybody,” said Catherine Atkin, president of Preschool California. “For years, low preschool teacher pay has meant higher turnover and lower program quality than California children deserve. Preschool teacher education is the key to preschool program quality. We need a better trained, fairly compensated and stable preschool workforce, because children do better when they can form stable relationships with good teachers.”

There is a solution to this problem. The Preschool for All initiative, now collecting signatures for placement on the June 2006 ballot, will dramatically increase the qualifications and pay of preschool teachers over the next decade. By ensuring that teachers are well-educated and fairly compensated, the initiative will make quality preschool programs available to the parents of every 4-year old in California. We will finally take advantage of a tremendous opportunity to reach children at a time when their brains are developing rapidly, when we can lay a foundation for their success in K-12"

The Preschool for All Act sets new standards for teachers -- requiring a BA and an early learning credential -- and aides who will need at least two years of college with 24 units in early childhood education. The Act also provides funding for curriculum development and public colleges and universities and for financial aid for the current workforce. The Act will increase the wages of preschool teachers by lifting their compensation to a level comparable to public school elementary teachers in California.

The annual turnover rate for preschool staff is 17 percent, compared to 16 percent for parking lot attendants, 11 percent for elementary school teachers, and 7 percent for registered nurses (See Note 1 below). With wages so low, many preschool teachers have difficulty making ends meet. When they can, they move on to higher paying jobs.

To learn more about Preschool California and the Preschool for All initiative, go to:


Note 1: Bureau of Labor Statistics (2005) Occupational Projections and Training Data. Washington D.C.: US Department of Labor. Available at


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