JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Forum for the Future (FFtF), a coalition dedicated to ensuring Mississippi’s child care system is state of the art by 2023, launched a groundbreaking report today shedding light on the challenging working conditions and precarious financial position of child care teachers in the state.
The report, which features an analysis of survey findings, was created by Systems Change Lab of the Social Sciences Research Center for the Child Care Teacher Wages Working Group of the Mississippi Forum for the Future. The working group, made up of childcare directors, advocates, and researchers sought to understand how to stabilize childcare teacher turnover by exploring Mississippi teacher wages, working conditions, teacher qualifications, and preferences.
“We’ve heard from childcare program directors across the state that many qualified, passionate teachers are leaving for better paying jobs in the service industry or elsewhere. This puts directors in an impossible position as small business owners because they know that their customers – the families in their communities – can’t afford to pay more for this essential service. It’s an issue that’s been present for a long time, but it’s been exacerbated in the past few years,” said Dr. Cathy Grace, the co-chair of the working group and the Director of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning at the University of Mississippi. “Our working group wanted to know exactly what was happening with childcare teachers so that we knew what sorts of solutions might make a real difference.”
The survey, completed by over 600 child care teachers from 65 of Mississippi’s 82 counties, highlighted four key takeaways:
- The childcare teachers who responded are overworked and underprepared. Close to 70 percent reported working 40 hours or more, and nearly half (47%) of teachers reported they worked with children who have mental, physical, or other disabilities or delays. Yet, nearly half did not have training beyond high school.
- The Mississippi childcare workforce is not stable. Over one-third of respondents stated they looked for a new job within the last three months, and of those respondents, 78 percent searched for a job outside of the childcare industry.
- Higher wages and benefits are needed to stabilize the Mississippi childcare workforce. Based on the findings of this survey, an additional $5.00 per hour could prevent 57 percent of respondents from considering a career change, and 45 percent reported that this amount would incentivize additional training.
Current child care teacher pay in Mississippi is below “survival wages.” The recently released 2021 Asset Limited, Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) report notes that survival wages in Mississippi for a single adult are $12.28 per hour. The Mississippi Childcare workers surveyed make an average of $10.93 per hour, typically with no benefits. This is less than the average income for dishwashers and cashiers and less than half the annual income of most PreKindergarten teachers ($42,952). The report findings highlight the need for urgent action to stabilize this sector.
“After COVID, we all saw how businesses struggled to hire and keep employees when parents’ struggled to find child care. This report provides some valuable insights that our coalition and others can use to develop solutions to the challenges childcare teachers – and all who rely on them to get to work – face,” commented Biz Harris, a founding member of the Mississippi Forum for the Future and Executive Director of the Mississippi Early Learning Alliance.
To learn more about Forum for the Future or to read the full report, visit https://msforumforthefuture.org.