Is the most precious thing in your life worth more than a poverty wage?
Activists are pushing for a $15 hourly base wage for preschool teachers and childcare workers. Many are currently college grads earning poverty wages, which have basically stagnated for nearly twenty years. The raise would be a major step toward providing livable wages for the service working families can’t live without. As the Fight for 15 movement gains momentum for fast food and retail workers, advocates are asking, if the people who prepare your lunch deserve a living wage, surely so do the people preparing our toddlers for school?
The campaign, launched this week by the Fight for $15 in collaboration with the Make it Work coalition and other groups, lays out a multi-pronged proposal for making “high quality, flexible care more affordable and accessible for all families”. Through federal funding and workforce reforms, this would provide “Guaranteed childcare subsidies for middle-and low-income families… to ensure that child care costs no more than 10 percent of pay,” and wage floor for educators and caregivers of $15 an hour. Families would have access to public preschool for all three and four year-olds, with greater investment in early childhood programs like Head Start. The proposal was also boosted in a new House resolution by Representatives Keith Ellison, Bonamici and Raul Grijalva supporting the $15-an-hour minimum wage and federally funded expansion of childcare and educational programs.
The proposal, which would raise the number of kids receiving subsidies to 26 million from the current 1.5 million, would extend programs like Headstart to full-day services, providing more stable schedules for clients and staff that accommodate unstable or fulltime workdays. Workers would be able to draw on financial support for supplemental “education, training and professional development.” They would also be encouraged to join “professional organizations” to strengthen working conditions, potentially opening the door to unionization.
To LiAnne Flakes, a Head Start educator in Tampa, Florida, the proposal helps close a growing gap she’s observed over her 22-year career: increasing demands being placed on childcare workers, but the pay hasn’t risen accordingly. Earning $10.75 an hour, without healthcare, she must live with roommates to afford housing. Her colleagues with kids are even more strained.