Since 1999, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) has been uniquely focused on the people who care for and educate young children. We document their experiences, needs, and the multiple ways in which the current early care and education (ECE) system fails them. Throughout the years, CSCCE has had the courage to make good trouble. We call out the policies that undermine the economic security and well-being of the ECE workforce and identify how they can be improved. 

Roots in Activism and the Worthy Wage Campaign

CSCCE’s roots go back almost 50 years to the previous generations of child care teacher activism on compensation, which started in the 1970s. CSCCE was founded by Marcy Whitebook, who began as an infant/toddler and preschool teacher, then joined with educators to establish the Child Care Employee Project (CCEP). CCEP served as coordinator for the emerging teacher-led national compensation movement dedicated to securing rights, raises, and respect for educators and the necessary public financing to improve child care jobs and services. CCEP helped teachers and providers in communities across the country to document their own wages and working conditions and led the National Child Care Staffing Study, which helped to launch the Worthy Wage Campaign and draw attention to the needs of the ECE workforce. 

“My fellow teachers and I thought making our low wages and poor working conditions visible would compel the changes we sought,” Marcy recalls. “But we came to understand that the U.S. early care and education system relies upon the exploitation of early educators and thus realized the enormity and complexity of the challenges we faced. After so little progress following nearly three decades of effort, I was motivated to establish CSCCE to ensure a continuing, resolute focus on the workforce for the struggle ahead.”

We came to understand that the U.S. early care and education system relies upon the exploitation of early educators.

Teacher-Centered Research and Policy

CSCCE has built on the teacher-centered tradition of research and policy that CCEP began, leading to the landmark 2014 publication Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages, which in turn laid the groundwork for the biennial Early Childhood Workforce Index and Racial Wage Gaps in Early Education Employment. During the first year of the COVID-19 epidemic, when early educators were expected to work as K-12 schools closed, the Center was one of the few organizations to speak out on the need to treat child care workers as essential and protect their health and livelihoods

Lea Austin has been Executive Director since 2019, following a successful co-directorship with Marcy Whitebook. Marcy led the organization for the first 15 years and now serves as Director Emerita.

“I’m proud of the impact that CSCCE has had over the past two decades,” says Lea. “We’ve changed the narrative and informed policy, but our work continues as we remain committed to achieving the public funding and policies that allow early educators to thrive.”