San Diego County invests $1 million in early childhood teachers' education

Funding covers tuition, books, fees and other costs for an associate degree or child development permit

San Diego County invests $1 million in early childhood teachers' education

The San Diego County government is looking to strengthen its early childhood workforce with a new six-figure program.

The county is providing $1 million to give at least 80 local early childhood teachers free access to higher education. California requires the teachers and supervisors to have at least a dozen semester units in early childhood education.

The workers can tap into the fund to cover the cost of tuition, books, other fees and any other costs for an associate degree or a child development permit, reported the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Read more: California supports displaced workers with new training grant program

Currently, there are fewer licensed child-care spots in the county than there are young children of working families, according to the report. 

The program is open to both full-time and part-time students, unlike some state and local programs that provide funding for tuition fees and other costs at community college. It is open to employees at home- and center-based child-care providers who receive state subsidies, are part of the county’s Quality Preschool Initiative or are located on tribal reservations. The program is funded by San Diego County’s First 5 Commission and a state grant.

The program will expand to support at least 100 more child-care workers as officials come into agreements with local community colleges, saud Eunice Munro, director of early education programs and services at the San Diego County Office of Education, in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

It also provides an opportunity for these workers to access education that may be too costly for them. Data from UC Berkeley suggest that child-care teachers are over seven times more likely to be living in poverty than their K-12 counterparts, and California child-care workers made a median wage of just $13.43 per hour in 2019, according to the report.

“There’s a big need for teachers working in early education, and we’re hoping that this program will address the highest of our needs by supporting qualified workforce members throughout our county,” Munro said.

Many child-care workers in California have advanced degrees even though the state does not require early childhood teachers to have a college degree.

Read more: California invests more than $230 million in talent development

About 53% of home-based child-care providers statewide have an associate or bachelor’s degree, compared to 60% of assistant teachers and aides at child-care centers, 80% of center-based teachers and 89% of center directors, according to the report, citing 2020 data from the UC Berkeley Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

Meanwhile, only about a quarter of home-based child-care providers have a child development permit. So do 41% of center-based assistant teachers and aides, along with nearly two-thirds of center-based teachers and center directors.

Previously, the California government invested more than $231 million to “advance and expand apprenticeship” via the 2022-2023 state budget, according to the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR).

Labor Secretary Natalie Palugyai said the apprenticeship is fundamental to addressing California’s workforce development needs. “With this new intentional funding and our roadmap for expansion, the State is creating equitable onramps to careers and opportunities for upward mobility for Californians,” Palugyai said in a media release.

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