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Salary Disparities in NYC’s Early Childhood Education Workforce

Salary Disparities in NYC’s Early Childhood Education Workforce

In his Preliminary FY 2019 budget, Mayor de Blasio proposed an immediate expansion of Pre-K for All to 3 year olds. This is a laudable, wise, and forward-thinking strategy to give every New York City child a strong educational foundation.

Currently, the majority of children enrolled in universal pre-K are in CBO programs with nearly two-thirds of universal pre-K sites at CBOs and 58.8 percent of all seats at CBOs.

But there’s a big problem plaguing the early education system that threatens to destabilize the proposed 3K expansion and the entire system.

That issue is wage disparity between early childhood teachers in Community Based Organizations (CBO)  and Department of Education schools.

Educators in both systems undergo the same academic training. Yet DOE teachers get paid much more than their counterparts at community-based organizations for the same noble work.

Specifically, as this infographic shows, pre-K teachers with bachelor’s degrees at CBOs earn as little as 60 percent of teachers at DOE schools, which translates to a more than $30,000 gap in income. This vast income divide exists as well for educators with master’s degrees as DOE teachers with master’s degrees earn more than $81,000, after eight years of service, while their peers teaching in CBOs earn only $48,920.

This wage gap is demoralizing for the educators at CBOs who have put the same amount of training and education into their careers as their counterparts at the DOE and who are doing the difficult and demanding work of instilling the next generation with a sound educational footing.

“Salary parity has a big effect on our kids,” said Joanne Cintron, a lead teacher at Children’s Aid’s Bronx Early Childhood Center. “We lost an aide yesterday. I had to tell the kids that she wasn’t coming back, probably not today, probably not ever. That’s not easy to explain to kids. And it creates a lack of consistency in the classroom. We lost another aide just two weeks ago. They both went to the DOE.”

Teaching preschool is a fierce act of compassion, patience, and hard work, and all who choose to do it deserve compensation that reflects the intensity of the job. Also troubling is the fact that CBO teachers are paid far less while working a longer day than their DOE peers as well as year round.

“We provide high-quality socioemotional support in addition to the language and literacy skills young children need,” said Dawn Heyward, Deputy Director of Early Childhood at East Side House Settlement. “We should be recognized among our educational colleagues as viable and necessary to the field.”

In his State of The City address, the Mayor touted universal prekindergarten as the route to a fair and just city. He also prioritized the need for the city to create good paying jobs and achieve “equal pay for equal work.”  We couldn’t agree more and urge the Mayor to address the persistent disparity in wages for early childhood teachers. Pay disparity has not only impoverished a workforce comprised primarily of Black and Latina women, but also destabilizes programs through high teacher turnover and at times classroom closures. The ramifications of salary disparity pose a major threat to 3K expansion and the stability of the entire pre-K system – placing the City’s ability to deliver on its promise of universal pre-K for all three and four-year-olds in a precarious situation.

It is time for New York City to fund salary parity for early childhood educators. A properly compensated workforce, and stable and high quality universal pre-K programs, will ensure a fair and just city for our youngest students and their most cherished teachers.

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