United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

September 26, 2016

“We are only as good as our teachers”

Why quality workforce matters in early education

We already know that investing in early education shows a return of $8 in social benefits (such as government savings and economic potential) for every $1 invested in early education.

And we know that children ages zero to five who do not receive high quality early childhood education services are 25% more likely to drop out of school.

When the stakes are this high, it only makes sense to invest in the best possible workforce to get the job done.

So why is it so hard for early education providers to find and retain quality teachers?

One of the biggest challenges reported by United Way partner agencies in the early childhood field is the chronic issue of workforce – having the resources necessary to hire, train, and keep quality staff.

This isn’t a new challenge. And you won’t find many people who disagree with the notion that teachers should be well paid. Yet, the average annual salary for early education teachers is $30,150 according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children. That may fit nicely into non-profit budget lines, but it doesn’t get the job done.

Nurtury early education

“We are only as good as our teachers,” says Wayne Ysaguirre, Executive Director of Nurtury, an early education center and United Way partner. “High quality education and care is crucial to granting our children the developmental skills they need to succeed once they leave Nurtury’s doors and enter further educational environments.”

This is true for every child, but even more so for children and families in need.  When a child doesn’t have the advantage of their learning being reinforced at home, the time spent with a teacher in an early education environment is even more critical to their development and capacity to learn.

“Our teachers play a crucial role in not only educating the child, but also strategizing how to best serve a family as a whole and empower parents who are, after all, their child’s very first teachers,” Ysaguirre says.

What’s the solution?

These teachers fill an extremely important role in our community. That’s why United Way works closely with our early education partners to provide support not only in the form of unrestricted funding to hire staff and allocate funds where they are most needed, but by offering resources such as teacher training and capacity building, and convening and advocating on behalf of the field.

Specifically, in the last year, we:

  • Worked with our public policy partners to advocate for $12.5 million rate reserve in the FY17 budget to support salaries in state-subsidized early education and care programs – more than double the $5 million in last year’s budget.
  • Continued to expand the State Early Learning Alliance of New Hampshire (SELA) to strengthen business practices and create opportunities for programs to share resources, resulting in significant cost savings that allow them to reinvest in quality.
  • Convened our early education partners to discuss how United Way can best support the field through further training, capacity building, and advocacy efforts.

But that alone is not enough. What is needed to create a lasting change and educational success for all of our children is even greater collaboration of government, philanthropy, higher education and business to invest in the attracting, training, and retaining a quality workforce of early education teachers.

Because we can’t afford NOT to invest in the people and programs responsible for building our children’s brains and our own communities.