Source: eJewish Philanthropy
Sadly, in the Jewish community, where we count and measure so much – who is a Jew; how many affiliate; how do they feel about Israel – we do not have a detailed national picture of the educators who comprise ECE and the compensation they receive for their work. Rather, we have a tiny number of community-specific studies that paint a depressingly bleak picture about how these teachers are valued and compensated. In the Denver/Boulder area for example, Jewish preschool teachers only earn about 60 percent of what kindergarten teachers earn with equivalent education. In the San Francisco Bay Area, a study conducted by the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund showed that in 2012, ECE educators at nine institutions had an average hourly salary of $20.75. In any community, this would be difficult to live on. In the Bay Area, it essentially is impossible. Other communities can point to other studies showing similar realities.
The family ECE experience only will be a positive family ECE experience if the learning offered is of high educational quality. To help ensure this, educators need to be valued, should receive ongoing professional support, and, to minimize turnover and attract the next generation of ECE Jewish educators, should be compensated on a par with comparably educated teachers of older children. In these areas, we are failing.
Beyond positive local initiatives, let’s methodically determine how and at what level our ECE educators should be compensated. Moreover, we know that when synagogue and JCC ECE centers operate as effectively and efficiently as possible, revenue for the entire institution increases, especially when families engage in the synagogue or JCC and become paying members. But we should track this information nationally to gain a deeper and fuller understanding of what high level ECE means for a community and its institutions.
This type of applied study – systematic research with a focused purpose – will help determine our community’s next steps to improve the ECE experience and to better support its educators. The Consortium for Applied Studies in Jewish Education, a community of researchers, practitioners, and philanthropic leaders, already has facilitated important discussions around the Jewish ECE space. Now, CASJE is intent on leading these important applied study efforts.
Armed with this national data to buttress our current understanding of ECE’s pivotal role, communities will be better positioned to make informed decisions about allocating funds and other resources. We can encourage and support communities to maximize public funding, to offer scholarship funds, and to increase ECE hours to serve working families – which also will increase revenues. To be sure, we believe that a serious commitment to Jewish ECE starts with a commitment to its educators. The Jewish camp and Jewish day school world made this commitment to their educators years ago. The future of our youngest generation deserves no less.
Read the entire article at eJewish Philanthropy.