DENVER — The Early Childhood Education Workforce Coalition (ECEWC) has published recommendations on how to recruit and retain educators, increase equity and diversity, and create pathways for career advancement in early childhood education as Colorado rolls out universal pre-K.
In December 2021, the Public Education & Business Coalition (PEBC) and the Keystone Policy Center launched the ECEWC, a group made up of more than 50 stakeholders who met regularly over the past year.
“We looked at the fact that there was already a lot of work being done by the governor's office, by legislators, by the Department of Early Childhood. So we wanted to find out, are there pieces of that that really needed a deeper dive?" Berrick Abramson, Keystone Policy Center’s Director of the Center for Education Policy said.
"And what we understood was there was a real need to talk about the educator workforce for early childhood,”
Abramson said one of the first issues that stood out was compensation.
“Where somebody starts at an entry level position, learning the job, working with our young kiddos. And as they grow, they need to have the opportunity to advance their own career within the profession,” Abramson said.
Jamita Horton, the policy manager at Public Education and Business Coalition, said PEBC has a teacher residency program that could serve as model for upward mobility within early childhood education. PEBC residents can earn up to $54,500 during their training year
“We really work to train people, to support them while they’re in the classroom, and also to support leaders to make sure that they're enriching students learning. And so our residency really works throughout Colorado, to train high quality teachers,” Horton said.
Horton, who worked as an early childhood educator for years, said lack of support led to her recent decision to leave the classroom.
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“If I felt more supported, more trusted, more autonomous, I would have stayed in the classroom for a lot longer,” Horton said. “When I think about our recommendations, I really think about them holistically. Because the goal is not just to recruit, we could have a revolving door people who are coming in and out of the workforce. And that's not really what's best for kids.”
Horton said these recommendations could retain educators like herself.
“Early childhood educators face the challenges of not being appreciated and seeming like a babysitter,” Horton said.
Horton and Abramson said for that to end it's time to rethink how Colorado supports early childhood educators.