Child Care Providers: The Workforce Behind the Workforce in Texas
Investments in child care programs with highly-qualified teaching staff set kids on the path to success
Quality child care can strengthen the current and future workforce, contribute to a strong economy and public safety, and enhance national security. Unfortunately, Texas’ child care system does not meet the needs of our state’s children, families, or educators. When families do not have the child care they need, parents’ work productivity falls, resulting in costs to parents, their employers, and, ultimately, taxpayers. Lack of access to early education places children from families with low incomes at risk of starting school already behind their more advantaged peers. Inadequate compensation for educators results in high levels of turnover and is also an equity concern, as the early care and education (ECE) workforce is overwhelmingly female and disproportionately women of color.
There are other consequences as well. Texas jails are full of people serving time for serious and costly crimes. It doesn’t have to be that way. Providing at-risk children with high-quality early learning opportunities can help reduce the human and fiscal costs of crime in the future, by setting children up for success in school and beyond. Further, our national security relies on qualified young adults who are ready, willing, and able to serve in the U.S. military. However, educational deficits, health issues, substance abuse, and crime currently prevent 73 percent of Texas youth from qualifying for service. Healthy early development sets the stage for children’s future success. Without improvements to the child care system, our nation risks having an even smaller recruiting pool in the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated longstanding challenges faced by the child care system. One quarter of Texas’ licensed child care providers closed temporarily during the pandemic, and eight percent have closed permanently. In addition, there has been a 16-percent decline in the Texas child care workforce, further impairing a sector that cannot meet the overwhelming demand for its services. As a result of these shortcomings, many parents, especially mothers, have been forced to reduce their work hours or leave the workforce entirely.
Texas’ child care providers perform an essential service and are a critical part of our economy. We must do all we can to attract and retain these workers and strengthen this important sector.
Suzii Paynter March, CEO, Prosper Waco
As Texas responds to the challenges presented by the pandemic, policymakers must continue to grow access to quality child care. A fundamental feature of child care quality is highly-qualified teachers who are well-trained both before and during their service and who need to be adequately compensated. Texas policymakers must address the needs of the child care workforce to ensure that families have the child care they need, parents can return to their jobs, and children can be set on the path to educational success. In particular, Texas’ child care workforce solutions must include increased investments in the child care workforce (compensation and benefits), better-articulated pathways to child care credentials and degrees, and enhanced in-service professional development opportunities. The state must also develop a plan for supporting the ECE workforce when the pandemic stabilization grants run out.
Action and innovation now can improve the experiences of Texas children today and strengthen our state in the years to come.