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How do you fix Chicago’s low early childhood teacher salaries? Increases are a start, say advocates

The Chicago Early Childhood Workforce Partnership Employer Council is urging state and local lawmakers to reassess how they fund early childhood education, similar to how the the state overhauled and increased K-12 funding five years ago.

A funding overhaul is needed, the board says, to address disparities found in a study it commissioned late last year to identify pay gaps between early career educators, primary school teachers public schools and other employment sectors.

Among the findings of the study and the board’s policy position paper released last week, early childhood educators in Chicago are paid $18,000 less on average than elementary school teachers, despite having the same diplomas. The gap is even wider for early educators of color, nearly 4% compared to white educators. K-8 educators and other industries outside of education often receive better benefits than early childhood teachers.

In the policy position paper, the council calls on Governor JB Pritzker, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other local and state elected officials to implement a policy that will increase salaries and provide transparency in education programs. early education, will examine gaps between white and colored personnel, and provide a 5% cost of living increase, among other things.

Creating equity between teachers of infants and toddlers and teachers of elementary school students is key to solving a staffing crisis, improving retention, and providing low-income and middle-class families with high-quality care, the council said. Without better pay, the council says in its policy position paper, a quarter of Chicago’s early childhood educators and more than a third of administrators and home-based providers are expected to leave the field in the next five years.

Bela Moté, president and CEO of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning and co-chair of the Early Childhood Workforce Partnership, said the study repeats what early childhood education advocates, educators and providers have been saying ever since. a long time and provides better data on what is happening in Chicago.

His hope is that the information will help the council make its case to lawmakers.

“We cannot be reactive. We cannot be competitive. We cannot be fair if we are at the mercy of formulas that do not even take into account the cost of living. Mote said in an interview with Chalkbeat.

The council commissioned the Policy Equity Group — a political organization based in Washington, DC — late last year to review Chicago’s Head Start programs. The group surveyed about 500 participants from private, public, and home-based early childhood providers in Chicago. The study focused on salaries, benefits, and bonuses in early childhood education compared to public schools in Chicago.

Although Chicago public schools do not employ educators who work with children ages 0-3, the study compared salaries based on the degrees K-12 educators possess and early childhood, such as university degrees and professional licenses.

The study found that the pay scale for Chicago public school teachers is higher than that of Head Start educators. A major gap was found in the role of ‘lead teacher’. The salary range for entry-level Head Start head teachers is between $16 and $25 per hour, while Chicago public school head teachers start at $34.78 per hour.

The study also compared the salary of preschool teachers to other industries such as transportation, food service, nursing and ridesharing. He points out that a Head Start lead teacher could earn more in non-educational jobs. For example, the study found that Uber and Lyft drivers start earning $19.01 per hour, and Amazon pays between $18 and $24.

The results are consistent with national findings that show Illinois early childhood educators are paid about 30% less than public elementary school teachers from kindergarten through eighth grade despite having the same degree and license.

When it comes to employee benefits, the study found that early childhood education programs and Chicago public schools have good benefits. However, Chicago Public Schools offers more benefits, including 10 days of paid parental leave, protection under the Families and Medical Leave Act for eligible employees, and the ability to take summer leave.

Looking at industries outside of education, the study found better benefits and bonuses for workers. According to the study, benefits from Amazon include medical, dental, vision care, prescription drug coverage and parental leave. Amazon is offering up to $3,000 in sign-on bonuses, while Lyft is offering a $2,000 sign-on bonus to drivers who complete 170 rides in the first 30 days and Uber is offering drivers $2,400 in earnings for making 200 rides/deliveries in the first 30 days in Chicago. , says the study.

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering state school districts, legislation, special education, and the state Board of Education. Contact Samantha at [email protected].

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