Report: Georgia’s Early Education Teachers Need A Raise

Tony Bennett, right, lead teacher at the Sheltering Arms, an early education and family center in Atlanta, Ga. works with a group of Pre-K students Thursday, May 10, 2007. A study released by the Southern Education Foundation reported that the South is leading the country in early childhood education enrollment and quality. (AP Photo/gene Blythe)
Credit Gene Blythe / Associated Press

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Georgia’s early education teachers needs a raise. That’s one of the findings of a new report from the University of California at Berkeley.

The Early Childhood Workforce Index says most states don’t pay early education teachers well enough. Megan Gunnar, a professor of childhood development at the University of Minnesota, helped develop the index. She says it takes strong teachers to work with kids under the age of five.

“Developmental science has shown us that early childhood is a period of time that’s critical for brain development,” she says.

That, according to Gunnar, means teachers have to be creative. They can’t count on young children to sit still and read quietly or compute math problems. They have to figure out how to engage their developing brains, she says.

The study found the median wage for child care professionals in Georgia has been stuck at $9.16 an hour for the past six years. This year’s state budget includes $26 million in raises for pre-kindergarten teachers.

Mindy Binderman, executive director of the Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, says that’s a start.

“It’s beginning to address this issue of early educator salaries, but that has not addressed the salaries of infant and toddler teachers, and we continue to be concerned about that,” she says.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission made some recommendations last year that would provide tax credits for teachers working at the state’s Quality Rated daycare centers. However, it’s unclear when, or if, the state Legislature will take up the proposals.