Study: Hawaii should seek to improve wages, working conditions for child care workers

Study: Hawaii should seek to improve wages, working conditions for child care workers

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The median wage for Hawaii's more than 4,100 early childhood educators is just $9.07 an hour, an "unlivable" salary that fails to recognize their importance in young children's lives.

That's according to a new state-by-state report that also criticizes Hawaii for its high cost of child care, and a lack of tax policies or subsidies that would offset the cost of care.

There are nearly 109,000 children in Hawaii under 5 years old. Some 61 percent of these kids live in households where their parents are working, and a fifth live in low-income households.

The report, from the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California-Berkeley, takes a critical look at child care – and how child care workers are treated – nationwide.

Marcy Whitebook, director of the center and one of the study's authors, said that early educators' "skills, knowledge, and well-being are inseparable from the quality of children's early learning experiences."

She continued, "But states are failing to provide the combination of appropriate compensation, professional work environments, and training teachers need to help children succeed."

Despite Hawaii's high cost of living, the median wage for early childhood educators was among the lowest in the nation. And it's actually gone down about 7 percent in the last five years.

By comparison, preschool teachers make nearly double what child care workers earn. Kindergarten teachers, meanwhile, make a median wage of about $21 an hour.

The study compares these wages to what veterinarians earn on average. Median wage for pet doctors in the islands: $90 an hour.

The report did praise Hawaii for requiring pre-kindergarten teachers to have a bachelor's degree, and notes the state does have a refundable child care tax credit.

But, the study notes, the state could do more to help parents offset the costs of care, and should work to improve the salaries and working conditions of early childhood educators.

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