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 struggle 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 teachers earns $10 per hour and are responsible not only for keeping children safe, but also for helping them develop and be ready for kindergarten. Childcare centers have difficulty raising salaries, because they know that there is a limit in how much families can afford to pay.
In 2022, the local members of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission (ELIC) initiated a program to reduce turnover and recognize the important role that early childhood educators play in building a strong foundation for our community’s youngest residents. The ELIC members raised funds to launch the Early Childhood Educator Awards Program which is modeled after a state program that was discontinued during COVID. Childcare centers apply to Child Care Consultants for financial awards for their employees. Individual awards vary depending on the level of Keystone Stars accreditation achieved by the center and the level of education of the employee.
Because of YCCF’s long history of advancing quality early learning opportunities and our current focus on removing barriers to economic mobility so people can thrive, we added our financial support for the program, agreed to be a fiscal sponsor and host a committee to oversee the program. The committee is seeking funding to continue the program for at least two more years.
Supporters of the program include:
- Child Care Consultants, which are administering the Program and distributing the awards
- The York County Board of Commissioners, that are providing funding using American Rescue Act Funds
- Local foundations and individuals which have a long history of supporting high-quality Early Childhood Education
- The Heinz Endowments.
“For three decades, the business and civic communities of York County have partnered to make quality early childhood education a priority for building York’s current and future workforce,” said Peter Brubaker, member of the PA Early Learning Investment Commission. “Attracting and retaining quality teachers is the foundation for strengthening and increasing a community’s capacity to serve young children with safe, enriching early learning programs. Consistency in childcare teachers also assures reliable care for the children of working parents, which decreases turnover in the local workforce and boosts on-the-job productivity.”
In its first year, the Early Childhood Educator Awards program distributed $459,000 to 63 Childcare Centers, reaching 311 educators throughout 22 zip codes in York County according to Christy S. Renjilian, Executive Director of Child Care Consultants. This will serve as baseline data to track changes in retention and attraction rates at the participating centers to demonstrate that the program is achieving its goals.
YCCF is focusing our 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.
On Wednesday, September 21 at 8 a.m., YCCF is hosting an online conversation around early childhood education as part of their Together We Thrive series.
Andrea Heberlein, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Early Learning Investment Commission will talk about the state of the sector in PA, in York specifically, and how communities are addressing the challenges facing the industry. Pete Brubaker, member of the PA Early Learning Investment Commission and local York philanthropist will talk about York’s local educator awards program as one of the solutions to the challenge of recruiting and retaining teachers. Lastly, Brian Grimm, President, and CEO of York Day Nursery will speak about how centers are innovating to serve more children.
Register to attend the virtual event here: https://yccf.org/together-we-thrive/.
Read more about the program and our recent grant from The Heinz Endowments here: https://yccf.org/yccf-receives-300000-grant-from-the-heinz-endowments-to-support-early-childhood-educators-in-york/