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Leading Colorado's Early Care and Education Workforce

"Leading Colorado's Early Care and Education Workforce," a new report published by Qualistar Colorado, in partnership with The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, reveals that leaders and teachers in the early care and education field are not fairly compensated for the critical role they have in children’s lives and within local and state economies.

The survey, which was completed by 471 early care and education professionals in Colorado who self-identified as a leader of a child care center or public school, highlights the dedication and experience of the state’s workforce while also highlighting key challenges in creating stability within the workforce. The survey revealed that:

  • We have a highly skilled and trained professional workforce. 82 percent have a college degree and 63 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. However, when compared to other professionals with similar educational backgrounds and work responsibilities, we can see that early care and education leaders are grossly underpaid.
  • The vast majority of teachers earn between $10.00 and $15.00 per hour, which translates to $20,800 to $31,200 per year. In all but one county, Adams County, teachers earn less than what is needed to be self-sufficient.
  • Although leaders reported higher salaries than teachers, the overall statewide average was $41,195 and is not reflective of the type of work for which a professional in this role is responsibilities.
  • 70 percent of leaders had experienced staff turnover in the past 12 months, and the need for more money was the top reason (30 percent) teachers gave when leaving their current position.

When a workforce is chronically underpaid, severe and negative repercussions exist including challenges in recruiting qualified staff and high turnover of positions that are both costly both to the business and, more importantly, to children. Children thrive with secure, attached adult relationships and interruption in such relationships can negatively impact a child’s social-emotional well-being.

A stable workforce is especially critical now as the state of Colorado enters the second year of Colorado Shines, a quality rating and improvement system, and PDIS, the professional development information system, which both seek to improve the quality of early care and education as well as establish professional development goals and individual career pathways for teachers. The quality of care and education that children from birth to age five receive is directly linked to the teachers’ education and the stability of the workforce.

Further research and community engagement is required to identify solutions to these complex challenges; however, promising solutions, such as shared administrative services, meaningful professional development in business practices and wage supplements, exist.

Download the report.

Report fact sheet.

Executive Summary.

Appendix: 13 Recommendations to Transform the Workforce