National data show careful investments in high-quality preschools and small class size in elementary schools can pay off. Above, pre-K students at Dorris Place Elementary School in Los Angeles on May 12, 2015. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Newby: Preschool teachers deserve sufficient pay

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Preschool teachers give countless children a platform for a successfully patterned life and deserve pay reflecting such.

By Taylor Newby

taylor-newby@uiowa.edu

The overwhelming need for preschool teachers in America boils down to a preschool teacher’s pay. In a country in which nearly 15 million children are living in poverty, mothers and fathers are wrestling with low-wages and low socioeconomic status to make a way for their children to have the opportunity to succeed in the school systems, and a large role in the success of a child’s future is the promise of preschool.

But with preschool teachers still deemed as nothing more than  daycare employees or babysitters, the undervaluing of a proper education is profound. In Iowa towns listed on Preschool Teachers, roughly 72 percent of the teachers make less than $20,000 a year at entry-level — among the named cities were Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. And according to City Data, 51.9 percent of boys and 40.1 percent of girls under the age of 5 are living below the poverty line in Iowa City and need preschool to pull them from the cycle of poverty and prepare them for a life of possibility.

Well-equipped preschool teachers deserve to receive their well-earned wages. The foundation of thousands of children’s futures are found in this fact. Because, without preschool teachers, children lack the possibilities that early education prepares them for.

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From birth to the age of 5, people’s brains develop more than they will at any other time in their lives. And the way the minds are being molded during these first five years manages to affect the way children will navigate the entirety of their education, and then the entirety of their lives. The countless experiences encountered by children during these first five years of life — regardless of whether they are positive or negative experiences — shape developing brains. And by the time a child enters kindergarten, 90 percent of their brains have developed.

Preschool teachers are the hands shaping millions of minds during the most influential and delicate period of a person’s life. And therefore, preschool teachers are much more than babysitters and deserve to be treated as such, both by society and their salaries.

In those first five years of life, our brains develop so intricately and intensely. According to First Things First, what allows the brain to move, think, communicate, and grow is the connections our brain cells make during those first few years. These connections are cultivated over the course of those years, and every experience is documented by our developing brains. So when children are entering into preschool, they are being profoundly shaped into the kind of person they will be for the rest of their life, because of the messages and connections communicating in their brains.

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The fragility of children’s lives is astounding, and preschool teachers instill patience in their lessons as they introduce children to reading, writing, storytelling, social studies, creative arts, vocabulary expansion, math, and science for the first time. All the while, they are allowing children room to grow, ask questions, and discover.

Children without preschool enters the education system heavily unprepared and devastatingly disadvantaged, lacking in areas such as social and cognitive development. Children without preschool are less likely to graduate — or if they do graduate, they are less likely to pursue college, according to a 2015 study from the U.S. Department of Education. But children with preschool are less likely to be retained in their grades and are more likely to succeed in whatever career they choose.

Preschool teachers give children a platform for a successfully patterned life and deserve pay reflecting such. Because when they are paid so little — when they are surviving on the brink of the federal poverty line — it is overwhelmingly difficult to continue pursuing a career as preschool teachers. America needs preschool. And preschool teachers need adequate and fair pay.

 

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