Early educators are some of our children’s first teachers yet make only $12 per hour.

The RIght from the Start campaign today released a new video, “WorthyWages for Rhode Island’s Early Educators,” detailing low pay for Rhode Island’s 3,000 early educators (child care, home visitors, and early intervention specialists) and the need for state policy makers to implement strategies to improve wages for this critical workforce. The RIght from the Start campaign is also urging the General Assembly to pass two pieces of related legislation (H-7271S-246) directing relevant state agencies to establish an early educators’ target wage scale and develop strategies to close wage gaps.

“Early educators in child care, home visiting and Early Intervention are our children’s first teachers and they provide essential support to families, yet in Rhode Island they earn very low wages,” said John Kelly, President and CEO of Meeting Street which operates all three programs. “Many early educators have associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, but inadequate state and federal funding means that we struggle to pay competitive wages and many move onto other better paying career paths. That’s not right. Working with children during their most important years of development is critically important and these professionals should be treated accordingly. We need more gifted, educated, and compassionate people choosing this important career path. It’s time for Rhode Island to implement strategies and policies to pay our early educators professionals the wages they deserve.”

“Rhode Island’s early educators are very much front-line responders during the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for our children, helping young families, and allowing working parents to get to their jobs,” said Representative Julie Casimiro (Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter). “These professionals deserve worthy wages and that’s why I am pushing hard for the passage of the Early Educator Investment Act to develop and implement strategies to improve the compensation for early educators. This legislation would have no immediate fiscal impact and would direct our state agencies to develop an early educators’ target wage scale. We owe it to our early educators, especially during these challenging times when they are stepping up, to pay them worthy wages.”

“The coronavirus pandemic has made us realize more than ever just how important Rhode Island’s early educators are to working families and our economy,” said Senator Sandra Cano (Dist. 8, Pawtucket). “They provide high quality educational and support services to our state’s children and families, many already have or are working to earn associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, yet we pay them unacceptably low wages that lead to high turnover. We can and we must do better and that’s why I’m urging my Senate colleagues to pass legislation establishing an early educators target wage scale. This is just a first step, but an important one towards paying our early educators the worthy wages they deserve for the work they do.”

“Addressing low wages for Rhode Island’s early education workforce is both about addressing gender and racial equity as nearly 99% of early educators are women and the majority are of color,” said Kelly Nevins, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund. “Rhode Island’s working families depend on high quality child care and related services, and our early educator workforce deserves wages worthy of the critical role they plan. They are the essential workers upon which much of our economy depends. Women’s Fund of Rhode Island strongly supports legislation and policies to improve the wages of our state’s early educators.”