News Release

Latina Preschool Teachers Confront Increasing Credentialing Requirements Which Could Reduce the Diversity of the Early Education Workforce and Impair Latino Child Development

UnidosUS Releases New Report: “Latina Teachers and the ‘BA Challenge’”

January 22, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC—Across the United States, many early childhood education (ECE) teachers are now required to have a bachelor’s degree or be enrolled in a degree program as a condition of their employment. This requirement is often personally and financially challenging for Latina teachers, who make up one in five (19 percent) of all ECE teachers nationwide, according to a new report released today by UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza)—the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. The report is based upon findings from 10 focus groups conducted with 94 Latina ECE teachers in 2018.

The report also finds that 27 percent of Latina teachers have between 10 and 15 years of experience in the field, and an additional 24 percent have worked in ECE for more than 16 years. However, most Latina ECE teachers do not possess a bachelor’s degree.

“Latina teachers bring a ton of experience to their jobs. We’re concerned that Latina pre-k teachers without degrees will lose or leave their positions because of the increased educational requirements,” said Dr. Robert Stechuk, UnidosUS Early Childhood Education Programs Director and author of the report. “It’s important to retain and even increase the number of Latina teachers in the ECE workforce, given that the number of Latino children is on the rise.”

Currently, one in four students in public schools is Latino. By 2027, that number will increase to one in three, and by 2050, some estimates are that one in every two public school children in the United States will be Latino.

“Latino children need ECE teachers who can relate to their life experience and often times need support in Spanish. We’re concerned that the children’s social, emotional and linguistic development is compromised without the cultural competencies that Latina teachers bring to their classrooms,” said Dr. Peggy McLeod, UnidosUS Deputy Vice President for Education, Workforce Development, and Evaluation. “Finally, we are deeply concerned that the overwhelming majority of our focus group participants reported that their college courses do not address the needs of children who are dual language learners. It is imperative that ECE teacher preparation take the needs of this large and growing population into account.”

The report also finds that despite the increases in education requirements, ECE teachers continue to earn poverty-level wages with 2018 median pay ranging from $23,240 per year to $29,780 per year.

“Many Latina ECE teachers attend college after work to meet these degree requirements, and that’s a significant challenge when many need to have a second job to make ends meet or have children and possibly other family members to take care of,” said Stechuk. “The pursuit of a bachelor’s degree often does not make financial sense for those in the field because the minimal differences in wages do not come anywhere near the time and money invested in the degree.”

UnidosUS recommends significantly enhanced compensation for ECE teachers and additional support policies to give Latina teachers and those of other backgrounds more equitable solutions when it comes to educational requirements. To see the full report, click here.

UnidosUS, previously known as NCLR (National Council of La Raza), is the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Through its unique combination of expert research, advocacy, programs, and an Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico, UnidosUS simultaneously challenges the social, economic, and political barriers that affect Latinos at the national and local levels. For more than 50 years, UnidosUS has united communities and different groups seeking common ground through collaboration, and that share a desire to make our country stronger. For more information on UnidosUS, visit www.unidosus.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.