BERKELEY, CA — California is moving swiftly toward ensuring universal preschool for all four-year-olds through the proposed expansion of transitional kindergarten (TK) in public school settings. Current policy proposals that include Assembly Bill 22 would create an estimated 8,000-11,000 additional lead TK teacher jobs in a public school system that is already struggling with staffing shortages. In child care centers and family child care homes across the state, a diverse cadre of experienced early educators is well prepared to meet this demand — as long as the planned TK expansion doesn’t leave them behind.
Today, the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) released “New Data Shows Early Educators Equipped to Teach TK,” a data snapshot that provides key findings from a recent survey of child care and TK teachers. Without careful attention to how TK is implemented, current TK expansion policies could further destabilize the early care and education (ECE) system and worsen existing racial pay gaps among the ECE workforce.
The existing network of child care programs are staffed with qualified early educators, yet TK will be limited to the public school system, excluding these experienced teachers. The data brief shows that:
- 49% of early educators in centers have a bachelor’s degree or higher;
- At least 37% of center-based teachers (about 31,000 teachers) already meet or exceed the requirement for TK teachers to complete 24 college units in early childhood education; and
- 70% of early educators in centers are people of color, compared to just 39% of TK-12 teachers.
“The current design requires attention because it risks excluding a racially diverse workforce that is already experienced and has the qualifications to teach four-year-olds,” said Dr. Ashley Williams, CSCCE Senior Policy Analyst. “We need pathways to ensure early educators can access the credentials the new system calls for.“
CSCCE recommendations to close the equity gap in TK expansion include:
- Utilize the existing ECE system and qualified workforce that is already serving four-year-olds;
- Establish and fund compensation parity for TK teachers, regardless of setting; and
- Create alternative pathways to qualify as a TK teacher that accept the degrees and experience early educators already possess.
Without these changes, the state’s vision for an equitable system for children, families, and educators will be undermined.