Local foundations and donors have already provided over $450,000 in incentives to more than 300 childcare teachers.
(YORK, PA, January 30, 2023) –To address the issue of attracting and retaining qualified childcare staff, the York County Early Childhood Educator Awards puts money directly into the pockets of teachers, showing sincere appreciation for their commitment to quality early learning education and to continuing their own professional development.
Local members of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC) initiated the York County Educator Awards program after a similar program at the state was discontinued. The program makes financial awards available to early learning centers based on their Keystone STARS certification level and the educational attainment of their staff. The goal is to secure enough quality childcare spots to meet the needs of York County employees with children. The program focuses on retaining skilled childcare teachers by providing financial incentives to stay in their jobs and advance their education.
“For three decades the business and civic communities of York County have partnered to make high quality early childhood education a priority,” said Peter Brubaker, one of six local members of the ELIC. “While progress has been made, too many of our young children do not have access to high quality facilities which has an impact on our workforce both today and in the future. Attracting and retaining quality teachers is key to providing our young children with safe, enriching early learning programs. Furthermore, by providing reliable care for the children of working parents we decrease turnover and boost on-the-job productivity.”
In the first year, the program was paid for through a mix of public and private funding including York County Community Foundation (YCCF), several local foundations, individuals, and the York County Board of Commissioners. The plan is to expand the funding sources in the future. Community Connections for Children, formerly named Child Care Consultants, administers the application process and the distribution of the awards. YCCF hosts an oversight committee to monitor results.
“In its first year, the Early Childhood Educator Awards distributed $459,000 to 63 home-based family providers, groups, and childcare centers reaching 311 educators throughout 22 zip codes in York County,” shared Christy S. Renjilian, MSW, Executive Director of Community Connections for Children. “This will serve as baseline data so that we can track changes in retention and attraction rates at the participating centers to demonstrate that the program is achieving its goals.”
Applications for the 2023 awards are open now and Early Childhood Education providers have been notified. The program’s goal for 2023 is to support more teachers at a higher level. Thanks to newly secured funding from WellSpan, The Heinz Endowments, and others, the amount of each award has increased by 5%. Teachers working with the Infant Toddler Contracted Slots programs are now eligible, and the additional funding allows the awards program to increase the number of educators receiving the award to 400 from 311, an approximate 28% increase.
York County’s 2020 Economic Action Plan identified the lack of quality, reliable and affordable childcare as a major barrier to attracting and retaining a stable workforce. In 2022, employers struggled to fill vacant positions in a highly competitive marketplace while childcare centers are closing due to their inability to hire staff.
The primary challenge is the low wages typical in the early childhood industry that make it difficult to attract and retain qualified staff. The average childcare teacher earns $10 per hour and is responsible not only for keeping children safe but also for helping them develop and be ready for kindergarten. The average salary for a lead teacher in Pennsylvania is $22,500. Childcare centers have difficulty raising salaries because they know that there is a limit to how much families can afford to pay.
In Pennsylvania, the four-star Keystone STAR continuous quality improvement system designates childcare quality from STAR 1 through STAR 4. As programs move up in quality level, lead teachers must have early childhood education degrees.
YCCF is focusing its grantmaking on helping lower-income people achieve lasting financial security. Quality childcare is critical to a child’s development and to a parent’s ability to sustain employment so the whole family can thrive. 100% of all contributions to the Early Educator Awards Program go directly to the teachers and staff at early education centers.
York County Community Foundation creates a vibrant York County by engaging donors, providing community leadership, and investing in high-impact initiatives while building endowment for future generations. York County Community Foundation holds more than 630 endowed funds and assists donors and nonprofits in reaching their charitable goals. The Community Foundation granted $7.1 million in 2022 throughout York County and beyond, and stewards approximately $180 million in assets.
Community Connections for Children, the new name of Child Care Consultants, supports families in finding and paying for quality child care and provides resources, training, and on-site technical assistance to help all types of early childhood education providers improve their programs to ensure that every child is successful in school and life. Community Connections for Children serves as the Early Learning Resource Center for Region 10 (York, Adams, Lancaster) and Region 9 (Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, Lebanon) and had revenues of approximately $144 million in fiscal year 2022.