Child Care Aware recently released a fact sheet that compares key metrics on early education and care in the state of Massachusetts as related to numbers for the nation as a whole. Some indicators seem positive. For example, the average yearly wage for an early educator in Massachusetts is approximately $25,890, several thousand dollars greater than the national average. However, as the Washington Post recently reported, a worker would need to earn more than twice that amount simply to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Massachusetts, as the cost of living is among the highest in the nation.
The majority of the early education and care workforce is comprised of women, a little more than a quarter of whom are unmarried with children of their own. For this demographic – single mothers – income spent on child care is an unfathomable 63%. Married couples pay about 15% of their income. In fact, you could buy a new car with what you pay for one year of full-time care for an infant, or, as the fact sheet indicates, pay for 1.7 years of college.
Indeed, the picture for early education and care in Massachusetts is not rosy. We must expand not only access to child care, but also quality and affordability – both for the workers and the children. Studies demonstrate that children benefit from having a consistent caregiver. If compensation remains so low, and child care so unaffordable, it will continue to become untenable for skilled workers to remain in the field. We heard one such story on Early Education and Care Day at the State House, back in April, when Kiara Barros shared her story with more than 500 supporters. How many more stories like hers are out there?