PASADENA, Calif. — Preschools and daycares faced a staffing shortage before the pandemic, and now it’s getting worse.
Nearly 4,000 licensed centers in California have shut down permanently, and those that have remained open are having a hard time finding teachers.
Elva Sandoval is executive director of Families Forward Learning Center in Pasadena. She’s been trying to hire three teachers for months.
The school shut down for seven months, and while 24 of 64 preschoolers are back, getting teachers back has been hard.
“It’s been difficult to bring back some of the teachers we had before simply because they are caring for family members at home, and with the pandemic, it’s just been difficult,” Sandoval said.
Fewer teachers on staff means more work for teachers like Rosa Sanchez. She has to spend extra time sorting and sanitizing materials while teaching.
“As teachers, it makes us feel unprepared and anxious at times because we want our classrooms to be the most well-prepared for our kids,” Sanchez said.
It’s been difficult for everyone in the early childhood education, or ECE, industry.
Child 360 CEO Bill Sperling estimates a shortage of about 34,000 ECE professionals.
“LA County has a large workforce of women of color. So if they aren’t able to enter the ECE workforce, other women of color aren’t able to enter the other workforce. It has this cascading domino effect,” Sperling said.
He said one way to get teachers back would be to pay them more. An average rate is about $16 to $18 an hour.
Raises are starting to happen. Child Care Providers United worked with the state to pay for at least 15% raises starting in January of 2022.
Sanchez hopes the extra money and benefits will get teachers back to the classroom. For her, the best benefit is watching a child learn.
“You’ll see them at the beginning of the year, and you’ll see where they can go at the end, and you build these connections with someone that isn’t a family member,” Sanchez said. “That goes to speak to how we’re all connected, and we can all kind of grow with each other and take care of each other.”
Child 360 is hosting a virtual career fair Sept. 15 for anyone interested in training and becoming a substitute or full-time preschool teacher.