By Daphna Bassok and Justin B. Doromal
High rates of teacher turnover are among the greatest barriers to building high-quality early childhood education (ECE) systems. In the United States, teachers working with the youngest learners turn over at much higher rates than those in the K-12 education system. For instance, our recent work shows that nearly half of child-care teachers in Louisiana leave their jobs from one year to the next. The pandemic made these already severe staffing challenges even worse. Center directors say they are struggling to keep and hire teachers and are therefore turning many families away.
Public investments in ECE programs are supposed to yield dual benefits: learning opportunities for children at a particularly formative life stage, and critical work supports for families and the economy. Teachers leaving at such high rates severely undermines both. Children learn less when they cannot form stable, attached relationships with their caregivers. Professional development initiatives are wasted when so many teachers leave before they can apply what they’ve learned. Centers cannot operate classrooms, or must shut down altogether, when they cannot recruit and retain enough teachers. And when child care isn’t available, parents cannot return to work and the economy cannot recover.