Kym Johnson works to support the professional development of child care providers and says the woeful pay and lack of respect for these essential workers has to stop.
For decades, working families have needed affordable and quality child care. During WWII, child care was a necessary cog in the economic wheel. With men conscripted to the battlefield and women deployed to the factories, a nurturing place was needed for their children. The Lanham Act provided, among other things, universal childcare from 1943-1946.
The needs of working families have not changed. Across the country millions of women built an ecosystem of early care and education for our youngest learners. Their monikers are many - preschool teacher, day care provider, child care worker, nanny.
These educated and devoted women rise at dawn to welcome your little ones for an early morning drop off. Lessons in numeracy and literacy are disguised as play. Children receive a STEAM based curriculum when tending a seedling in the garden, finger painting nature scenes, measuring ingredients for cookies, and building towering Lego structures.
When most of us were sheltering in place, these mighty women kept their doors open to care for the children of essential workers.
Hospitals were staffed because health care workers had a safe place for their children. Grocery shelves remained stocked because clerks had a safe place for their children. The same holds true for first responders, delivery drivers, warehouse workers, utility workers, and many more. These women taught our children, kept them safe and the economy going,
For all that they do, many in the field earn less than $20 per hour, have no benefits or retirement plans. Owners of child care businesses often net less than minimum wage after expenses and even with advanced degrees, many owners and teachers struggle with student debt. This is a disgrace. We can no longer allow our country’s prosperity to be borne on the backs of underpaid and marginalized women.
These women deserve our appreciation, respect and the compensation for the professionals they are.
With a Perspective, I’m Kym Johnson.
Kym Johnson is the CEO of a 48-year-old Oakland organization that partners with families and early care educators to raise happy, confident children.