WASHINGTON, DC – As early education programs look to reopen for the new school year, they are facing a workforce crisis. Quality, qualified staff are hard to come by and, in some cases, the shortages are preventing classrooms from reopening.
In early September, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra hosted a roundtable discussion to discuss early childhood workforce challenges. NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci shared what NHSA has heard directly from programs across the country.
“Chief among all our concerns is the workforce crisis. This has long been an issue that has been slowly burning, but the heat has recently been turned up. We are hearing that children and families are losing services due to the lack of qualified staff. In fact, a quick survey of Head Start programs indicates that 15% of the classrooms could not be opened this September because of staff shortages.”
Key to addressing the issue, Yasmina shared, is addressing pay parity between early educators and K-12 teachers — a provision of the Build Back Better Act. A second and related challenge is mental health for staff.
“Needs are higher than ever. Programs do not have funds for mental health consultants and mental health consultants are in short supply.”
While Congress is looking for legislative ways to address this crisis, Yasmina provided ideas for additional solutions directly through HHS, including telehealth systems funded by the department.
“There is so much more to be done. We are excited to continue working closely with you and your team to ensure that the needs of at-risk children and families and the programs that serve them are prioritized and addressed through our work.”
The National Head Start Association is a not-for-profit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in school and in life. The opportunities offered by Head Start lead to healthier, empowered children and families, and stronger, more vibrant communities. NHSA is the voice for more than 1 million children, 270,000 staff, and 1,600 Head Start grantees in the United States. Follow @NatlHeadStart for more information.
Emily Wagner, Communications Director