Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

First Class in Learning – First Class in Life

How Washington’s Early Childhood Education Career and Wage Ladder Delivers First-Class Care

High-quality early learning cannot be achieved or sustained when the bonds between teacher and child are broken because teachers leave their jobs to gain higher paid employment in order to support their own families. But a 2005 report by the Economic Policy Institute estimates that 40% of Washington’s child care center teachers earn less than 200% of the federal poverty level.

Based on this knowledge, in 2005 the Legislature passed – and the Governor signed – the Early Childhood Education Career and Wage Ladder (Wage Ladder)into law. The Wage Ladder improves the quality of child care by enabling early learning teachers to earn better compensation, based on educational advancement and achievement, as well as experience and job responsibility.

The Wage Ladder is the only early learning program in Washington found to create statistically significant improvements in the quality of care. The cost is about $250 per child per year, and represents a frugal, robust, and evidence-based intervention that has catalyzed high-quality child care in Washington.

With the Wage Ladder, early learning educators gain economic security and professional education, just the ingredients needed for high-quality early education and care. If we value our children, we will value their teachers and caregivers, not less so, but especially so in this recession.

A suspension of the Wage Ladder will jeopardize the professional and educational progress of over 800 early learning teachers across the state. These early learning teachers will lose critical supports necessary to sustain their participation in the early care and education field – and the children in their care will suffer the consequences.

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