Early Childhood

The Starting Line: Preschool teacher strikes and the pay gap problem

Welcome to April!

From possible preschool teacher strikes in New York City to a new state-level early education department in New Mexico, we’re ringing in spring with lots of early childhood headlines.

On the reading front, we have a story out of Colorado about the state’s stepped-up oversight of how educator prep programs cover reading instruction. (Spoiler alert: The first prep program up for review didn’t fare well.) Meanwhile, Memphis education leaders are considering a controversial strategy for struggling readers: holding them back in second grade.

Back this month is our “First Hand” section, with essays from a parent fed up with preschool “homework” and a teacher who prizes mindfulness for herself as much as her students.

See you next month!

— Ann Schimke


LAUNDRY LEARNING Chelsea Clinton appeared in a Chicago laundromat recently in support of a growing program to put books and play materials in community spaces where children go with their parents.  

SCATHING REVIEW Colorado’s largest teacher preparation program received a harsh critique from the state over how it trains future educators to teach reading — a result of increasingly aggressive efforts to improve the state’s dismal third-grade reading proficiency rates.

(VERY) EARLY EDUCATION A New York City charter school network has launched a twice weekly home visiting program to reach toddlers as young as 18 months old, years before they enroll in school.

STRUGGLE AND REPEAT Tennessee’s largest school district, based in Memphis, is considering a policy to retain second-graders who can’t read on grade level, part of an effort to achieve what district leaders call “the third-grade guarantee.”

SHINY AND NEW Detroit school leaders plan to open the district’s first free-standing Montessori school to help attract parents who might otherwise choose private or out-of-district schools.


SPEAKING THEIR LANGUAGE Hundreds of California preschool teachers and supervisors are getting training to help them better serve young dual-language learners. EdSource

DOUBLE DIGITS At 10 years old, Washington, D.C.’s universal preschool program is the longest-running in the country. Here’s a look at its track record. DCist

‘BABY PISA’ An international assessment long used to rank countries based on the achievement of their 15-year-olds will release results next year from a new assessment designed for 5-year-olds. Education Dive

BULLY PULPIT California’s new surgeon general, an expert on the effects of childhood trauma, hopes to use her post to promote routine childhood screenings for traumatic stress and greater access to services for youngsters who need them. Kaiser Health News

SHERIFFS FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD Law enforcement officials in Arizona argued for greater state investments in early childhood by saying it helps prevent criminal justice costs later. Inside Tucson Business

DEPARTMENT OF EARLY CHILDHOOD In New Mexico, a new state law will place services for young children into a standalone department in charge of preschool, child care assistance, and home visiting programs. Albuquerque Journal

CO-WORKING PERK As the co-working industry grows, some companies are beginning to offer child care to accommodate parents who use their space. CityLab

OPINION Savvy and well-educated parents are more likely to benefit from paid parental leave initiatives like the one proposed by Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker, argues a California professor of education and public policy. Chicago Tribune

Personal essays and Q&As

If I can’t stay calm as a teacher, how can I expect more from 7-year-olds? Chalkbeat

The Burden of ‘Parent Homework’ New York Times

Here’s the best thing you can do for your kids, parents. (Pssst: It’s easy.) Washington Post

… on preschool pay disparities

Same work, lower pay. It’s a nationwide problem for preschool teachers who work in community-based programs instead of public school classrooms. It’s also the main reason thousands of New York City’s community-based preschool teachers could go on strike in May.

Although community-based providers serve about 60 percent of children in the city’s signature universal preschool program, they earn far less than their public school counterparts. For example, a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree earns $42,000 for working in a community-based preschool and $58,000 for working in district-run preschool. After eight years on the job, that pay gap widens from $16,000 to $33,000 as community-based providers inch up to $45,000 a year and district preschool teachers vault to $78,000.

A 2017 report on preschool pay parity calls the gap between community-based and school-based providers “the most pervasive challenge” for cities and states, one “exacerbated by a lack of existing mechanisms to reform compensation outside of school settings.” Read more here.