Kathy Stewart: Early childhood education far from ‘baby-sitting’ PART 2


They will provide opportunities for sorting objects, and recognizing and making patterns. I could go on, my goal being to demonstrate that the world of early childhood education today is quite different from that of your distant memory. The education of young children requires the efforts of dedicated, caring, and well-educated teachers. The point is that quality is key in providing sound educational experiences and the education of the teachers and caregivers is key to quality.
From a lofty position, Mr. Jahncke uneasily envisions a time when well-educated teachers might ask for equal compensation. He cautions, “One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize, once day care workers are unionized and have the same qualifications as kindergarten teachers, they will demand equal pay.” As Mr. Jahncke reports, preschool teachers with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education typically earn approximately $27,000 with no benefits. “Those without earn even less, approximately $18,000.”
I have spent my working life with young children, first as a teacher and for the past 10 years as the director of a preschool.
It has been my honor and privilege to work with young children, but the injustice that is tolerated in this profession is not borne lightly. Many dedicated teachers of 3- and 4-year-old children have come to the unfortunate conclusion that they cannot live on a vocation and have left the profession. They needed health care. They were afraid of eking out their retirement years on Social Security alone. They could not make ends meet on $25,000. Could you? At the same time, many wonderful and dedicated early childhood educators have lived their vocation, but at a cost.
Mr. Jahncke has diminished early childhood educators as “babysitters” with a “job description not requiring a college degree.” I hope I have countered this position. The precious responsibility for each young child’s development — social, emotional, physical, creative, and cognitive — so ably assisted through early childhood education, should be valued more highly.
Kathy Stewart is director of St. Saviour’s Church Nursery School in Greenwich.