Early Learning Workforce

Effective early learning educators are essential to providing children with a high-quality early learning experience that will benefit their growth and development in the short and long term.

Low wages and lack of benefits have created a shortage of early learning educators, and impeded efforts to recruit new teachers. First 5 Contra Costa works with partners, including the Early Learning Leadership Group, to better understand and respond to the county’s early learning educator workforce crisis.

Low compensation threatens the child care workforce

Data from the UC Berkeley Center for the Study of Child Care Employment shows that child care staff in the Bay Area continue to make less than comparable staff in local TK-12 school districts. On average, center-based teachers earn $6,300 less in annual pay while family child care teachers earn $16,500 less than their TK-12 counterparts. The local child care workforce is predominantly women of color, 52% of which are foreign-born and 61% of which speak a language other than or in addition to English.

Many child care workers are dedicated to their profession despite the lack of compensation and recognition. The UC Berkeley Center documents how hard child care workers try to make ends meet so they can continue working with young children—they work second jobs, take on debt, seek safety net services like CalFresh or other forms of assistance. But this is not sustainable.

Child care closures driven by the COVID pandemic, the expansion of transitional kindergarten jobs that pay more, and increasing cost of living has accelerated the historic challenge of low compensation into an urgent crisis for the child care workforce and the families that rely on their programs.

Download The Early Care and Education Workforce of Contra Costa County, January 2024 report by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, University of California, Berkeley, which provides a snapshot of fiscal and holistic well-being of the licensed ECE workforce in Contra Costa County.

Guaranteed Income for Child Care Teachers

Guaranteed Income is a policy approach to addressing poverty, reducing social inequalities, and promoting gender and racial equity. Guaranteed Income programs give regular cash payments to individuals with no conditions or requirements. These approaches are grounded in the values of trust and respect for recipients. 

Several Guaranteed Income pilots have demonstrated that such programs enhance recipients’ financial stability, their physical and mental health, quality of life, and also allowed many to increase the amount they work.

First 5 Contra Costa believes this approach could be an interim solution to the child care compensation crisis in our county. To explore Guaranteed Income for child care teachers, First 5 Contra Costa is launching an exploratory project that includes:

  • Commissioning a study of child care staff compensation in Contra Costa County through a partnership with the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at UC Berkeley
  • Leading a community input process to learn from local child care teachers about their fiscal challenges and ideas about how a Guaranteed Income approach might support the field
  • Forming an advisory group to work with community members and subject matter experts to develop a pilot project for our county, and seek funding to support it.

For more information, contact Sandra Naughton at snaughton@first5coco.org.