Creating an inclusive child care workforce in Kansas

Amina Seck
July 25, 2019

Parents and early childhood educators are responsible for preparing children with knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to be successful in an increasingly diverse world. Creating an inclusive early childhood education experience and workforce is not just socially responsible, it is a necessity.

Children of color currently make up 34 percent of the Kansas population.[1]  Early childhood educators must reflect the demographic profile of the children they serve, not only so children can see adults that look like them, but so they can also see adults that don’t.  Early childhood providers, particularly those in leadership positions, do not reflect the demographic breakdown. People of color have roughly proportional representation in some early education roles. For example, people of color are roughly one-fifth (22 percent) of the Kansas adult population,[2] as well as roughly one-fifth of roles including center assistant director (20 percent), lead teacher (22 percent), and center assistant teacher (20 percent).

However, people of color are less likely to serve as family child care owners or operators (12 percent) or center directors (14 percent).[3]  And this doesn’t reflect the ongoing demographic shift, in which more than one-third (34 percent) of Kansas children are children of color. The disproportionate representation holds among racial and ethnic affiliations. For example, examining the Latinx population, members make up one in 10 (10 percent) of the Kansas adult population and one in five (19 percent) of Kansas children.[4] However, Latinx Kansans only make up a very small percentage of leadership roles in early childhood education, with less than 4 percent of those roles being filled by Latinx Kansans.[5]

The benefits children gain from teachers who share their race and/or ethnicity include reduced racial bias, early opportunities to interact with people from different backgrounds and an increased understanding that people of color can be role models to non-children of color.

Providers of color hold higher expectations for children of color. Their understanding of children of color make them less likely to misdiagnose them as students with special needs.[6] One study indicates that increasing providers of color is a good strategy to narrow the educational achievement gap.[7]  Children start to notice differences and evaluate others at the age of 3; therefore exposing them to people of different backgrounds, races, and ethnicities can decrease fear and harmful stereotypes.[8]    

To increase the number of early childhood educators of color, policymakers should address compensation, recruitment, and language barriers. To increase diversity in the early childhood workforce, policymakers need to address compensation for providers, recruitment for educators of color, and language barriers for potential providers. Early childhood educators often struggle financially. A study indicates between 2014 and 2016, 53 percent of early childhood providers nationwide enrolled at least one public assistance program.[9] While low pay is a problem for many early educators, it is especially problematic for black women. On average, black women in early education receive 84 cents to the dollar compared to their white counterparts.[10]  About 75 percent of providers of color struggle to pay their bills, and almost 50 percent do not have enough food for their families.[11] 

Federal funding from the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) can be used to recruit people of color to become early childhood educators. Challenges to address include the cost of receiving higher education to advance in the early childhood education field,[12] as well as language barriers.

Kansas policymakers should:

  • Improve compensation and benefits for people working in child care field.[13]
  • Require information and trainings to be available in multiple languages.
  • Support professional development of racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse early educators through scholarships and stipends.[14]

[1] “Child Population by Race in Kansas.” Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau via the KIDS COUNT Data Center. Annie E. Casey Foundation. 2017. https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/103-child-population-by-race?loc=18&loct=2#detailed/2/18/false/871,870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35/68,69,67,12,70,66,71,72/423,424

[2] “Adult Population by Race in Kansas.” Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau via the KIDS COUNT Data Center. Annie E. Casey Foundation. 2017. https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/6539-adult-population-by-race?loc=18&loct=2#detailed/2/18/false/871,870,573,869,36,868,867,133,38,35/68,69,67,12,70,66,71,2800/13517,13518

[3] Child Care Aware of Kansas. “Who Cares for Kansas Children? 2018 Kansas Child Care Workforce Study and State Child Care Profile.” 2018. https://www.ks.childcareaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/2018-WKFC-Study-and-State-Profile-091418-PRESS.pdf

[4] Johnson-Stub, Christine. “Equity Starts Early: Addressing Racial Inequalities in Child Care and Early Education Policy.” CLASP, 2017. https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/equity-starts-early-addressing-racial-inequities-child-care-and-early

[5] Johnson-Stub, Christine. “Equity Starts Early: Addressing Racial Inequalities in Child Care and Early Education Policy.” CLASP, 2017. https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/equity-starts-early-addressing-racial-inequities-child-care-and-early

[6] Mongeau, Lillian. “Preschool Teacher Ranks More Diverse, Female Than K-12.” Education Week, 2014. https://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/early_years/2014/10/preschool_teachers_more_diverse_female_than_k-12_peers.html

[7] Carver-Thomas, Desiree. “Diversifying the Teaching Profession: How to Recruit and Retain Teachers of Color.” Learning Policy Institute, 2018. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/diversifying-teaching-profession-report

[8] Ingram, Patreese D. “Creating a Culturally Diverse Child Care Environment.” Pennsylvania State University, 2012 https://www.teachingforchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ec_creatingaculturallydiverse_english.pdf

[9] Whitebook, Marcy. et al. “Early Childhood Workforce Index 2018.” Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, 2018. http://cscce.berkeley.edu/files/2018/06/Early-Childhood-Workforce-Index-2018.pdf

[10] Johnson-Staub, Christine. “Equity Starts Early: Addressing Racial Inequalities in Child Care and Early Education Policy.” CLASP, 2017. https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/equity-starts-early-addressing-racial-inequities-child-care-and-early

[11] “Undervalued: A Brief History of Women’s care Work and Child Care Policy in the United States.” National Women’s Law Center, 2017. https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/final_nwlc_Undervalued2017.pdf

[12] Johnson-Staub, Christine. “Equity Starts Early: Addressing Racial Inequalities in Child Care and Early Education Policy.” CLASP, 2017.

[13] “Undervalued: A Brief History of Women’s care Work and Child Care Policy in the United States.” National Women’s Law Center, 2017. https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/final_nwlc_Undervalued2017.pdf

[14] Johnson-Staub, Christine. Equity Starts Early: Addressing Racial Inequalities in Child Care and Early Education Policy.” CLASP, 2017. https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/equity-starts-early-addressing-racial-inequities-child-care-and-early