A report released this week by the U.S. Department of Education shows it doesn’t pay to be an early childhood teacher.
Wyoming is one of 13 states where preschool teachers earn, on average, less than half of the $56,000 annual salary earned by kindergarten teachers.
Wyoming Kids First executive director Becca Steinhoff says preschool teachers need more than $26,000 a year.
“Wyoming really recognizes and values K-12 public education schoolteachers,” says Steinhoff. They get paid very well because we know that they’re doing a huge service. What I think is disappointing is that we don’t extend that same level of credibility and support to people who are educators for our youngest children.”
Head Start teachers and other childcare workers also make substantially less than those in the K-12 system, according to the report.
Early childhood education experts say the pay gap impacts the quality of early education.
“About 90 percent of the brain’s capacity develops before age five,” says Steinhoff. “So, we have a golden opportunity to impact the future learning behavior and health of young children in those first five years. We need to be sure that they’re engaged in high-quality early learning environments, whether that’s at home or outside of the home.”
Wyoming is one of eight states that do not provide state-funded preschool.
Steinhoff says it’s difficult to attract highly-trained educators to early childhood, when they could earn double their salaries teaching older students.
The report found that early childhood educators in Wyoming earn less than on average than manicurists and pedicurists.