A report from the US Department of Education shows that preschool teachers earn significantly less than kindergarten and elementary educators—even in states that provide funding for early childhood programs.
In South Dakota the median preschool teacher earnings are about $10,000 less than the wages of kindergarten teachers. The report found that even with the same level of education, the wages of preschool teachers fluctuate depending on their work setting.
Libby Doggett is with the US Department of Education. She wants more states to place greater emphasis on early childhood learning to close the gap between preschools and K-12 programs.
“In states where preschool has not been a part of the K-12 system, it’s much more of a step-child and I think there’s a gulf between the K12 system and the early learning system. And so, our vision for the future is that learning begins at birth, that we have highly qualified and well paid teachers working in every classroom, even for instance, with toddlers because that’s when the brain development is even more important, and that this be either a part of schools or closely linked with schools so that it’s an easy transition for children and for families,” says Doggett.
In South Dakota preschool programs vary widely from district sponsored programs, to community-based preschools. Mary McCorkle is president of the South Dakota Education Association. McCorkle wants preschool funding to become an issue discussed on a state level.
“We have struggled for a long time with K-12 funding and the difficulty of attracting and retaining teachers because of low pay. The legislature has begun to work on that through last year’s session and I think that makes it even more challenging for the early childhood teachers as well,” says McCorkle.
McCorkle says she would also like to see state standards created for preschool programs.