July 30, 2021
This summer, Child Trends, a national organization focused on improving the lives of children and youth through independent research, released a report examining the impact of Alabama’s pay parity policy for early childhood educators.
Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is one of just ten public preschool programs in the nation that requires teacher pay on par with K-12 educators, regardless of whether the classroom is in a private, community-based, or public school setting.
First Class Pre-K is able to offer competitive wages because of funding administered by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. The state grants guarantee that all First Class Pre-K educators receive the same starting salary and salary schedule as K-12 educators. This means that a pre-k teacher with ten years of experience can expect the same salary regardless of the setting that teacher works.
Alabama’s policy has been in place since the 2015-2016 school year. At the time, it was one of the first states to make this guarantee.
The authors of the Child Trends report, Workforce Perceptions and Experiences with the Alabama Early Care and Education Salary Parity Policy, interviewed teachers, program directors, and officials with the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education to better understand the impact the policy has had on the early childhood community statewide.
Several key takeaways emerged from those conversations.
- With salary parity in place, there is an increased interest among teachers in joining the ECE workforce.
- Salary parity may also be a useful strategy for increasing workforce retention.
- Salary parity improves teachers’ economic well-being but does not include other supports, such as benefits, that full compensation parity could provide.
The report’s authors noted in the report that pay parity is different from compensation parity. The former is specific to wages. Compensation parity also includes benefits such as health insurance and retirement. The authors noted that even though Alabama does not fund compensation parity, the pre-k directors they interviewed believed the policy allows them to offer a more competitive benefits package than they would otherwise be able to give.
The Alabama School Readiness Alliance is proud of the state’s leadership on this issue, and we congratulate Secretary Barbara Cooper and her team at the Alabama Department of Early Childhood on this recognition. We will continue to work with DECE and early childhood providers to help develop additional policies that support the early childhood workforce.