Workforce Recruitment and Retention
We know that a high quality, fairly compensated, well supported, and culturally and linguistically diverse early childhood workforce is essential to ensuring that all of our youngest Coloradans receive the early experiences that set them on a path to success in school and in life. However, the pandemic has only worsened Colorado’s preexisting early childhood workforce crisis. In Colorado and across the nation, early childhood professionals across all care settings are underpaid, overworked, and under supported despite providing an essential service to families. Unfortunately, turnover in the field is incredibly high – early childhood educators leave their jobs four times more frequently than other educators.
In Colorado, child care professionals earn about as much as parking lot attendants, fast food cooks, and non-farm animal caretakers, a median hourly salary well-below the self-sufficiency standard in every area of the state. They earn half as much as kindergarten teachers, and about a third as much as nurses. Low pay is a significant contributor to high turnover, which leads to additional instability in the industry and licensed child care deserts across the state.
The pandemic laid bare what our providers and families already knew- the early childhood workforce provides an indispensable, essential service to Colorado’s families and communities. In our state, approximately 246,000 children under age 6 (nearly two-thirds of all kids in the state) have all of their parents or guardians in the workforce, meaning that they depend on some form of early care and education every week. Additionally, the use of paid early care and education is highly correlated with women’s labor force participation. The child care workforce is comprised of 96% women (who are primarily women of color) and more than half of young children whose mothers work full-time rely on paid child care. Investments in providers are investments in women’s economic self-sufficiency across the board.
Early childhood also provides tremendous spillover benefits for Colorado’s economy. More than $640 million in direct output is generated within the child care sector. The early care and education industry is estimated to support about $720 million in additional indirect and induced output in other industry sectors, for an estimated total of $1.4 billion in total output for Colorado’s economy. For each new child care job created, more than 1.5 additional jobs are created in the larger Colorado economy.
We know that we cannot adequately support Colorado’s families or economy without a robust early childhood workforce. When providers continue to point to the lack of an available, qualified workforce and high turnover as one of the leading challenges to keeping their doors open or expanding their capacity to serve more families, it’s clear that more must be done. The challenges facing the child care sector do not only impact the early childhood workforce and the Colorado families immediately dependent on their support – they impact us all. Therefore, it is essential that our legislature develop equitable solutions to improve the lives of the professionals across all care settings that support our state’s youngest children.
Recent Policy Successes
The Children’s Campaign is committed to work to realize Colorado’s transformative vision for early childhood. We are proud to have led and supported several bills over the past few years that work to increase early educator workforce recruitment and retention, including the following:
HB22-1010 (Sirota & Van Beber/Buckner & Kirkmeyer) Early Childhood Educator Income Tax Credit This bill creates a refundable income tax credit for an early childhood educator who meets specified income and eligibility requirements for at least 6 months of the taxable year. This is an evidence-based recruitment and retention strategy; with the amount of credit an early childhood educator receives being dependent on their credentialing level.
HB22-1295 (Sirota & Garnet/ Buckner & Fenberg) Department Early Childhood and Universal Preschool Program establishes the functions of the Department of Early Childhood and the leadership of the department in administering early childhood, child health, and family support programs. It also creates the Colorado universal preschool program, which will provide at least 10 hours per week of free preschool services for children in the year before kindergarten, beginning with the 2023 school year.
SB22-213 (Fields & Sonnenberg/Valdez A. & Tipper) Support for Early Childhood Programs allocates funding to a number of early childhood programs, including workforce support, expansion grants, employer-based child care programs, home visiting, and family, friend, and neighbor support to sustain and expand programs that are making a meaningful impact in child care and early learning.
SB21-236 (Story & Sonnenberg/Tipper & Van Beber) Early Childhood Stimulus & Workforce Supports invests in the early care and education workforce, as well as innovation in the early care and education sector, by creating and expanding several grant programs aimed at increasing child care capacity throughout the state.
HB20-1053 (Sirota & Wilson/Story) Supporting the Early Childhood Education Workforce streamlines flexible pathways to the classroom and supports teacher recruitment and retention programs. It supports early childhood mental health initiatives and greater flexibility for the 34 statewide Early Childhood Councils and the state Office of Early Childhood in supporting quality, responsive programming for all programs and educators regardless of their level of quality.