There are two separate but related issues that have challenged advocates, researchers and practitioners in the field of early education and care work for decades : improving the quality of children’s programs and increasing the wages and benefits of the workers. The solution has been framed as a need for professionalizing the workforce – professional development training, higher education and enhanced skills. While seeking professional status is expected to improve the quality of childcare programs and worker compensation, the relationship between quality, compensation and professional development training has not been fully explored. Through in - depth interviews with 32 early childhood educators I explored the relationship between educational qualifications and experience , with teacher pay and condition s of employment. Although the majority saw their work as “valuable and meaningful” they did not intend to remain in early childhood education. They experienced poverty wages, few benefits, high work related expenses and job insecurity. Their narratives highlight a crisis in early childhood education that requires radical change within the profession of early education . To retain the most qualified and motivated early childhood educators , pay and working conditions must be improved. Obtaining professional status and credentials for early education and care workers is not enough . Substantial increases in wages and benefits must be central to this movement; anything less suggests exploitation not professionalization.


Early Childhood Educators, Preschool Teachers, Professionalization, Professional Development Training, Compensation, Teacher Narratives


Preliminary drafts of this paper were presented at the American Anthropology Association and the Eastern Sociological Society. She also wants to thank Jackie Sroka and Lara Pirro for their help with interviewing and transcription of the data.

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