FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County has released an in-depth study called the Early Childhood Education Wage Increase Pilot Project, which examines the relationship between wages, the well-being of child care educators and the quality of instruction.
United Way partnered with Learning Tree Academy for phase one of the project to raise the wages of their teachers during 2022, raising wages from $9-$11 to $15-$18. Full-time employees saw an average increase of 54% and part-time employees an average increase of 43% in their wages.
Takeaways from the study include:
- Teachers overwhelmingly reported reduced stress levels, increased satisfaction and happiness as they were more equipped to provide for their loved ones.
- The center experienced a turnover rate of 116% before the study in 2021. The turnover rate decreased dramatically to just 30% during the study in 2022.
- With increased financial stability, the desire to leave for other jobs decreased dramatically for educators.
Unfortunately, these low wages are not uncommon for early childhood educators in San Antonio. According to PayScale, the average hourly wage for these educators in San Antonio is $10.34. This means most workers in this field earn less than the Federal Poverty Level or earn less than the cost of living. This reflects a larger issue plaguing nearly half of all residents in San Antonio as 46% of people in our city either earn less than the Federal Poverty Level or less than the cost of living.
“The thing we struggled with was being able to pay all the bills every month,” said Celeste, one of the instructors at Learning Tree Academy. “I would have to make arrangements and have to tell my kids ‘no’ to the different things they wanted to do. Things they weren’t able to do because I didn’t have the money, it was really hard on our family.”
The study at Learning Tree Academy represents the first phase of the Early Childhood Education Wage Increase Project. United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County is currently securing funding for a second phase of the project, which will expand the sample size to measure the quantitative benefits of increasing educator wages on the quality of care that the children receive. The ongoing research will also examine the effects of wage increases at multiple centers throughout San Antonio and compare results to centers that do not increase wages as well.
“I cannot go back down to what we were paying before,” said Kumari, owner and director of Learning Tree Academy for the past 20 years. “My struggle is that, can my parents who live in this particular area of San Antonio, afford an increase in price? We can give quality care but to give that quality of care, there needs to be some kind of assistance for child care centers. I have been paid with pennies, nickels and dimes before to pay that tuition so I know that there is a struggle for some of my parents,” she said.
No single organization can raise wages for all early childhood educators in San Antonio. That will take action from state lawmakers regarding increasing subsidies available for centers so they can pay their teachers better wages without having to pass on the cost to the families they serve.
“Without support, centers like Learning Tree Academy will continue to struggle to balance wages, tuition and quality of care,” said Dr. Jason Aléman, Vice President of the Ready Children Impact Area for United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County. “By investing in higher wages for these educators, everyone involved will experience greater financial stability, quality learning environments and a better quality of life.”
The full study can be found on our website along with a video with comments from the owner of Learning Tree Academy and three of her educators discussing how the study impacted their lives here.
About United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County
United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County launched its first campaign in 1940 and has grown into the largest private investor in health and human services programs in San Antonio and Bexar County. United Way focuses on preparing children for school and life, helping students graduate and succeed, strengthening the well-being of individuals and families, and providing safety net services. United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County also operates the 2-1-1 Helpline, Mission United and fosters volunteerism through the Volunteer Center at United Way.
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