Anna Markowitz and Rashmita Mistry: Protect California’s Childcare Workforce from Coronavirus

Commentary for EdSource calls for greater investment in protecting educators and caregivers, children, and communities.

As schools across the nation begin to prepare for the next academic year mid-pandemic, early childhood caregivers and educators are also tasked with safeguarding their facilities against infection by coronavirus. A commentary for Ed Source by Anna Markowitz, assistant professor of education, and Rashimita Mistry, professor of education and vice chair of Undergraduate Education at GSE&IS, highlights the need for more funding to support the safe return to working with children and families.

“Early childhood educators need money to pay for cleaning supplies and services and personal protection equipment,” write Mistry and Markowitz, who co-authored the commentary with Deb Valentine, Ph.D., executive director of the UCLA Early Child Care and Education Center. “Some data suggest that early educators already have spent an average of $700 out of pocket to cover these ongoing costs. They need hazard pay, and priority access to Covid-19 tests — measures to protect them and the rest of us from infection.”

Rashmita Mistry is a professor of education and the vice chair of Undergraduate Education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA

In the commentary, Professors Markowitz and Mistry emphasize that in California, “The early care and education profession already is characterized by deep poverty and instability,” with a median hourly wage of just more than $12 and 30 percent of early educators experiencing food insecurity. Despite these conditions, data reveals that early childhood educators spend an average of $700 out-of-pocket to cover cleaning supplies and services, and personal protection equipment.

“They need hazard pay, and priority access to Covid-19 tests — measures to protect them and the rest of us from infection,” write Markowitz, Mistry, and Valentine. “The federal CARES Act will provide $144 million for cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, and another $125 million in one-time stipends for providers. But in a state with more than 9 million children and at least 200,000 early childhood educators, this will not go nearly far enough. It certainly will not provide health care for the many uninsured and underinsured child care providers.”

The co-authors assert that California’s economy – as well as the future well-being and success of California’s children – are at risk without more support for early childhood care and education in the wake of COVID-19.

“… Without high-quality child care, we risk allowing this crisis to harm our children’s futures,” they write. “Working conditions that erode wellbeing and generate instability for workers are not just bad for our economy — they also have grave consequences for young children who need well-trained, professional teachers and caregivers. Children’s experiences during their first five years have an outsized impact on their long-term physical, mental, personal and economic wellbeing.

“Rapid brain and corresponding skill development sets the stage for subsequent growth and learning, and a large body of research has documented the importance of high-quality early care and education in preparing children to thrive. Unfortunately, it is difficult to offer warm, engaging, and intellectually stimulating care when one’s own basic needs are not met.”

To read, “California must commit to funding coronavirus protections for child care workers,” visit EdSource.

Above: Anna Markowitz, UCLA assistant professor of education, is a scholar of how policies shape human development, particularly those that affect children, their families, and their educators and caregivers.

Photo by Joanie Harmon