Friday was Provider Appreciation Day, honoring the hardworking people who care for kids so the 78-percent of Iowa parents with kids under five who work can go off to the job each day without worry. Cathy Wheatcraft, Childcare Resource and Referral coordinator, says it’s a low-paying job despite its importance and the state hopes to do something about it. Iowa’s just gotten to be a TEACH state, licensed in a program that gives childcare providers college scholarships to study child development and “developmentally-appropriate best practices.” The program’s aimed at workers in childcare centers. Part of the program is raising wages for the job, getting an agreement with centers where a worker takes the college program, that their pay will be increased or they’ll get a bonus once they complete their associate degree. Until daycare providers can become certified and regulated, like so many other professions including even your hairdresser, Wheatcraft says it’s going to be tough to get their wages increased. She acknowledges it’s a real Catch-22, with parents paying as much as 30 or 40 percent of their own income for childcare, and unable to pay more. She says sometimes those parents are “subsidized” by their own childcare providers, who charge only what they think parents can afford. She says the childcare and education field is one of the most underpaid occupations in the country, despite agreement that the early years are a critical time in children’s learning and development.
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