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States Leverage Covid Relief Funds for Early Childhood Workforce Recovery


Alexandria, Va.—The pandemic caused nearly 40 percent of child care providers to shut their doors, leaving many early childhood educators out of a job. State-funded preschool enrollment also declined nearly 20 percent in 2021, marking the first decline in 20 years. While the early childhood education (ECE) industry is recovering, its recovery is slow. Twelve percent of ECE positions remain unfilled or have been eliminated.

A new NASBE analysis outlines state investments in ECE workforce recovery through compensation and benefits, mental health and well-being supports, and professional development opportunities.

“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,” writes Winona Hao, NASBE’s director of early learning. And many state policymakers have already done so, opening a window to evaluate how funding is being used.

  • Kentucky, North Carolina, and Washington used American Rescue Plan (ARP) grants to increase compensation and benefits for child care center employees.
  • The District of Columbia developed a multitiered system of support to offer training, resources, and technical assistance to educators and students, and Louisiana invested $1 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funds to provide all public school and child care educators with access to free virtual teletherapy sessions.
  • Other states allotted their Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds for addressing professional development for educators: New Jersey invested in training school staff to understand and address student needs through learning acceleration and other interventions, and the Utah State Board of Education developed the K-3 Early Professional Literacy Project to train early educators in the science of literacy.

State boards can build understanding and guide actions related to the ECE workforce by monitoring ARP implementation, examining ECE workforce data, and aligning ECE with their vision for education for the state. For example, the Michigan State Board of Education recently restructured their licensure bands to push the needle on the state’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan by creating a birth through kindergarten teaching certificate to strengthen the preparation of early childhood educators.

“Without sustainable, long-term strategies for increasing compensation, [states] risk exhausting funding on short-term investments while maintaining a long-term funding gap for educators,” writes Hao.

Read and share Investing in Early Childhood Workforce Recovery.

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