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The pandemic hit the already vulnerable early childhood education (ECE) workforce especially hard, causing almost 40 percent of child care providers to shut their doors and many teachers to lose their jobs. In 2021, enrollment in state-funded preschool also dropped for the first time in 20 years—a nearly 20 percent decline that erased a decade of growth. Because of the workforce’s critical role in supporting children, families, businesses, and the economy, when the ECE system struggles, communities feel the effects.

The ECE industry is recovering slowly. As of May 2022, 12 percent—or about 117,400—of positions remain unfilled or have been eliminated. Such job loss significantly hurts the entire economy, as 16 percent of the U.S. workforce relies on child care to return to work.

With substantial federal COVID relief funding, state boards of education have new opportunities to advocate for investment in efforts to address ECE teacher shortages and retention in particular. Many state policymakers have done so, using the funding to support compensation and benefits, mental health and well-being, and professional development for educators across the birth to grade 3 education sector. …


Investing in Early Childhood Workforce Recovery



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