Today has been designated "National Child Care Worthy Wage Day." Barb Merrill, director of the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children, says most surveys find childcare workers the lowest-paid in the country. Nationally, they earn about $18,000 a year. That’s a little high, as she says in Iowa it tends to be closer to ten or twelve-thousand dollars a year.
The theme for this year’s observance is "Hanging by a Thread," which refers to the low pay that keeps childcare providers barely getting by. They may make minimum wage, or barely more than that. Merrill says most providers don’t have access to health insurance and other benefits through their benefits, and it’s very difficult to stay in the field unless they happen to be in a family with other sources of income.
Another problem is keeping quality, committed childcare providers in the field, as turnover tends to be high. The group doesn’t have a lot of answers, but Merrill says they also want to highlight the dilemma of working parents who can’t pay more for daycare. "Childcare providers are getting paid less than people who give puppy dogs haircuts," Merril says. She says society needs to look at that, and consider whether there should be more support for parents who want quality care for their children so they can go to work.
She says one answer might be supporting programs that offer childcare, so parents don’t have to carry the full burden and the workforce can be better paid. The group is recognizing "Worthy Wage Day" around the country today and hopes to get public officials as well as parents thinking about solutions.