Why education is important, and early childhood education salaries

The statistics for this blog reveal that by far the top two “search terms” that lead to this blog are variations on the following: “Why education is important”; “early childhood education salary”.

I suspect these search terms mostly come from students who are either completing course assignments or considering career options. This blog has included posts (for example, this post, or this video)  that argue that education is important, not only because it helps the individual being educated, but also because an individual’s education has broad spillover benefits for everyone engaged in the economy.  This blog has also included posts (for example, this post)  that present evidence that typical salaries in early childhood education are quite low.

It is ironic that what many people learn from this blog is that education is of great importance to our society, and yet we do not pay decent salaries for our early childhood educators. It is hard to see how the simultaneous existence of these two facts can be justified morally or economically.

If education is of great social importance, we should be willing to go to some considerable effort to improve education’s quality.  Even if one believes that greater school choice, or stronger accountability requirements for schools, can improve the quality of education without greater expense, surely we should at least consider what could be done to improve education through paying better salaries to teachers at all levels. In improving the quality of any service, surely we should consider employing positive as well as negative incentives for improvements, the “carrot” and not just the “stick”.

Any legislator or policy maker who acknowledges the great importance of education for our economy and society should be asked whether they are willing to support greater resources for proven solutions to improve education quality. These proven solutions include funding early childhood education at a high enough level that we not only have access to pre-K for all children, but also have quality programs. Quality programs require high enough per-child funding that pre-K teachers can be paid decent salaries.

About timbartik

Tim Bartik is a senior economist at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, a non-profit and non-partisan research organization in Kalamazoo, Michigan. His research specializes in state and local economic development policies and local labor markets.
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