Worthy Wage Day is a national day of action, held annually since 1987, as part of an ongoing grassroots campaign to raise public awareness of:
- The low wages earned by early childhood educators, and
- The damaging effects on young children of instability from the teacher retention crisis and chronic underfunding in early education.
Worthy Wage Day is celebrated this year on Thursday, May 1. At the AFT, our celebration will kick off "Mobilization May," a month of activism when communities across the country will focus on the urgent need to restore equity and fairness to national, state and local policies that determine every family's access to the American dream. Together, we must RECLAIM THE PROMISE for all children and their families.
Thank an Early Childhood Educator Today!
On Worthy Wage Day, the AFT calls attention to the importance of early childhood education and the dedication of its workforce. Every year, educators adopt a playful but poignant theme to highlight the need for worthy wages in our field. In 2007, our Worthy Wage quilt—along with its message, "We're hanging by a thread!"—was featured on NBC's "Today" show. In earlier years, educators delivered peanuts and play dough to members of the U.S. Congress, saying "We shouldn't work for peanuts!" and "We can't make it with 'play dough'!"
While research and official policy now support the importance of early education, families and early educators continue to struggle:
- Poverty-level wages are driving experienced early childhood educators from the field.
- Funding for child care subsidies has been cut in hundreds of communities around the nation, making child care less attainable for hundreds of thousands of families.
- A bad economy, cuts in state child care subsidies and increases in parent copayments have all forced many child care businesses to close. This not only decreases the availability of early learning opportunities for the nation's youngest children, it also damages the small business sector, both urban and rural, of the American economy.
Research also shows that the most important component of quality in early care and education is the quality and consistency of the caregiver/teacher. As long as early educators are paid low and poverty-level wages, we, as a nation, will never be able to ensure that our youngest children receive the highest quality early care and education.
It is time to reclaim the promise of early childhood care and education—not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as it can be—to fulfill our collective obligation to help all children succeed. Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that early childhood care providers and educators are well-prepared and supported so they can meet the individual needs of every child.
National Worthy Wage Day is jointly coordinated by the Center for the Child Care Workforce and the AFT.