We expect so much from our preschool teachers. They have to be able to deal with crying kids and controlling parents and students who may or may not be potty trained. They need to know how to sing and dance and keep our kids engaged during circle time. They should teach kids social skills and cognitive skills and shoe-tying skills, all while serving up snacks and maneuvering hats and coats and boots with a smile.
Sounds like a lot of work, right?
But guess what? Despite research that indicates that high-quality providers and educators are the single most important factors in healthy early childhood development, preschool teachers in our country earn shockingly low wages—even when they have credentials and higher levels of education!
According to a new report from the Department of Education, preschool teachers made just an average of $28,570 last year. If it sounds low, that's because it is. In fact, it's less money than fast-food workers and even tree trimmers make!
Here in Pennsylvania where I live, preschool teachers make even less: just $25,970 per year. By comparison, a manicurist in my area takes in $21,020. One you entrust with your fingernails; the other you entrust with your child.
I'll give you guys a minute to let that sink in.
Of course, if you move up to kindergarten, the take-home pay nearly doubles: The average kindergarten salary last year was $51,640. So if you love little kids and enjoy playing with crayons and paste, teaching K is probably the best place to start.
Or move to Alaska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Louisiana, Kentucky, or District of Columbia, the only five spots in the country that pay its preschool teachers over $35,000 a year.
Still, in all 50 states, preschool teachers earned significantly lower salaries than kindergarten teachers and other elementary school teachers. And in six states—Arizona, Idaho, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin—preschool teachers earned less than $24,000 — a salary below the poverty level for a family of four.
Time to start perfecting those French manicure skills.