by Stuart Cleinman

Having been in the field for a few decades, I have realized a few things:

1) We need more males.
2) We (males) will always be a small percentage, but hopefully will grow.
3) Salaries will remain low.

On the third point, I have heard the point, and it is a valid one, that salaries need to be raised in order to attract staff. Nothing could be more truthful. However, where is the money going to come from? Child care programs have to be careful so as to not price themselves so high that parents cannot afford the care; government funding only goes so far; and we (child care operators) have to live within our means, which is often a limited budget. I remember when I was working in ‘resource and referral’ in the 1980s and someone was opening a new child care program. She had her rates higher than other providers in the area and when I pointed this out to her, she explained this was because she was running a ‘higher quality’ program and people would be willing to pay more for this. Well, within a few months, she learned, and dropped her tuition, to reflect the going rate in her community.

So, what do we do? Hopefully, salaries will rise, but I entered this field in my early 20s and I am a few years away from sixty and have seen a little movement, but not much. As people said in the workshop, being in administration helps and that has certainly helped me.

Which brings me to my loan forgiveness idea. Early care and education providers have had a difficult time recruiting and retaining classroom staff for a number of years. With the salaries remaining stagnant, and not likely to move up greatly in the future, my proposal is as follows:

1) An individual works as a teacher in a child care program for five years (uninterrupted).
2) Their college loan(s) is put on hold during this time.
3) At the end of the five year period, their loan or loans are forgiven and paid back by the United States government.
4) The loan forgiveness is not taxable income.
5) If an individual leaves before the five year period, he or she is responsible for full payment of college loan(s) with interest.

I believe this would move staffing forward greatly for our field as it is a way of putting money in people’s pocket. While the salaries would remain similar, with some increases, folks working in the field would not be liable for a debt of up to, say $50-100,000, because it would be forgiven.

[MenTeach: There actually ARE loan forgiveness programs if you work in low income areas. It would, however, be great to have them for all teachers. You can find out more about them in the Resources section.]