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Child Care Advocates Respond to AZ Report: Poverty Pay Puts Toddlers at Risk

October 28, 2008

Phoenix, AZ – Teachers' pay at Arizona childcare centers remains at poverty levels, according to a new report, although preschool instructors work with children at a critical time in their development. Experts say 90 percent of a child's brain development occurs in the preschool years, before age 5.

Children's advocates believe higher teacher salaries would benefit kids in the long term - including reduced rates of school dropout, teen pregnancy and crime later in life - and also would improve the economy and society as a whole. Dana Naimark, president and chief executive officer of the Children's Action Alliance, says the report her group compiled makes a strong case for better pay, to attract better teachers.

"Childcare is a basic infrastructure for families in the state to succeed, just like transportation, housing, roads and sewers. In fact, there are many economic studies by economists and bankers that really measure the payoff. The return on investment is extremely high: seven dollars or more for every dollar invested."

Arizona's childcare providers are paid less than half what a typical kindergarten teacher makes, Naimark adds, resulting in lower staff education levels and high turnover.

The report also recommends hiking childcare subsidies for low-income parents as one way to put more money into the childcare system. Naimark notes that the current Arizona subsidies are based on cost figures that are eight years out of date.

The report was funded by the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families, Arizona Head Start's State Collaboration Office, and the group First Things First. Read it online, at www.azchildren.org.

Doug Ramsey/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - AZ