10/10/10 — Partnership backs funds for child care teachers/staff

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Partnership backs funds for child care teachers/staff

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 10, 2010 1:50 AM

By the time the average child enrolls in first grade, he may have spent more than 10,000 hours in child care.

So it's vital to have qualified and compensated early education teachers, say officials at the Partnership for Children of Wayne County, which is backing an effort to fund additional education for those who work closest with these children.

The Child Care WAGE$ Project, started nearly 10 years ago in the state, provides education-based salary supplements to qualifying early educators, encouraging them to take college-level classes.

In Wayne County to date, the Partnership funded $145,000 for local childcare providers to participate in the project.

That breaks down to 51 childcare facilities and 137 providers who have benefited from the supplement, said Patty Huffman, executive director of the Partnership.

"The average is $650 a person to the teachers in the classroom (for the supplement)," she said. "It's like an incentive for them to continue their education.

There are criteria to qualify, she noted, one of them being that the applicant must earn less than $13 an hour to be eligible for the supplement.

"Ninety-three percent of those providers earn less than $12 an hour," Mrs. Huffman said.

In fact, across the state, the statistics are alarming.

"In North Carolina, few early educators have higher education degrees and many earn as little as $8 an hour," said Sue Russell, president of the Child Care Services Association, which runs the Child Care WAGE$ Project. "We have to do better. These teachers play a key role in shaping the next generation of citizens. They deserve a living wage and incentives to continue this important work."

It appears to be working.

Outcomes since the program was introduced in Wayne County have been impressive.

"We have noticed that our turnover rate is 9 percent -- it was 12 percent in the state," Mrs. Huffman said. "That whole continuity of care is important."

Not only that, but the workers can continue to get supplements as long as they attend classes to further their education. The only stipulation is they must commit to working in the same facility for at least six months after completing their education.

Feedback for beneficiaries of the education supplement has been favorable, Mrs. Huffman said.

"Most of the participants say it does give them an incentive to go to school, which is our goal, to keep child care providers educated," she said.