Supporting Early Child Care Educators Through HB20-1053

Child care access is critical for families to enter and remain in the workforce. Nationwide, approximately 2 million parents of children under the age of five had to opt out of the workforce in 2016 due to challenges with child care. In Colorado, approximately 256,000 children between birth to age six have working parents who depend on some form of child care, but the state only has enough licensed capacity to care for 45 percent of these children.

Related: 2020 Policy Proposals: Child Care & Early Childhood Education

A leading factor contributing to this shortage is the inadequate supply of qualified early childhood educators. Based upon results from a Colorado early childhood workforce survey, 70 percent of early childhood education (ECE) directors reported challenges to filling vacancies, which take two and a half months to fill on average.  Often these educator shortages lead to classroom closures resulting in limited access to child care options for Colorado families.

A current bill being considered by the Colorado legislature, HB20-1053: Supports for Early Childhood Educator Workforce, offers one strong step forward in addressing the recruitment and retention of early childhood education educators.

Challenges of Attracting & Retaining Early Childhood Educators in Colorado

The high costs of child care stem from the large costs relating to the maintenance of buildings that meet high safety standards and the labor-intensive nature of the industry. On the labor side, costs depend upon two important components, low staff-to-child ratios and the qualifications of early childhood educators.

The high costs of the industry has led to an untenable situation: Even though child care is extremely expensive for parents, wages for those providing the care and education are very low. Average infant care costs in Colorado are $14,960 per year, which is equal to 20.5 percent of an average family’s income, far above the recommended 7 percent family contribution by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Colorado families with an infant or toddler pay 44 percent more for child care than a year of tuition at a public college. Even with these high costs, the number of staff required in each classroom results in a median hourly wage for early childhood education educators in Colorado is $12.60 and $13.88 for preschool teachers. Low wages are a major barrier to attracting and retaining educators.

Related: Colorado’s Middle Class Squeeze is Real

Whether mandated by state licensing requirements or needed to provide safe and nurturing environments, early childhood educators need formal credentials. These credentials represent competency in areas such as health, safety, learning techniques, and program management. However, educators work long hours and balance their time between caring for children, meal preparation, administrative duties, and bookkeeping related tasks to remain in compliance of licensing and industry quality standards. As a result, to complete credential programs, educators most often attend courses or training outside their work schedules, which can be exhausting or discourage educators from entering the industry entirely.

How Does HB20-1053 Make Progress?

Attracting and retaining early childhood educators will require solutions that increase wages, professionalize the industry, address working conditions, and create pathways that ease entry into the field and provide for advancement within a career. HB20-1053 specifically addresses the need to create pathways for entering and advancing within the industry. The bill creates:

  • Streamlined qualification processes for aspiring educators: Reduces barriers to entering the early childhood profession by adjusting hiring requirements on child care centers and providing more opportunities for aspiring educators to attain needed credentials. Rather than needing completed credentials from staff members upfront, child care programs could meet state licensing requirements regarding staff qualifications so long those staff members are pursuing the needed credentials. The bill also allows aspiring educators to receive course credit for previous experience, lessening the cost and amount of time needed to complete a credential. The bill also creates more opportunities for high school students to complete credentials while they still are in high school.
  • Early education recruitment and retention grants: Eliminates financial barriers to the attainment of credentials and career advancement opportunities by providing existing and aspiring educators with funding for postsecondary programs, credential programs and exams, training, and mentorship opportunities.
  • Early educator apprenticeship program: Reduces barriers to entering the profession by creating work-based learning opportunities, such as on-the-job training and classroom instruction to support aspiring educators. These opportunities ensure aspiring educators get paid as they pursue necessary credentials.

While this single bill cannot address all challenges contributing to the child care shortage, creating a skilled and sustainable ECE workforce can increase the supply of high-quality child care educators to meet the demand of licensed child care options to Colorado families. Passing HB20-1053 will connect the opportunities to educators access the skills and credentials necessary to sustaining Colorado’s ECE workforce.