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Early child care workers rally for livable wages and more centers in Connecticut

Teachers, Childcare workers, families and Stamford residents gather to rally for early educators at the Children's Learning Centers of Fairfield County in Stamford, CT. March 8, 2023.
Tony Spinelli
/
Connecticut Public
Teachers, child care workers, families and Stamford residents gather to rally for early educators at the Children's Learning Centers of Fairfield County in Stamford, Conn., March 8, 2023.

Early child care workers and supporters rallied in six communities across Connecticut Wednesday to speak out against low wages, as well as the lack of child care services in many local communities.

“The Morning Without Childcare” protests were organized by the group Child Care for Connecticut’s Future.

In Stamford, people gathered at the Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County. Advocates, child care providers and parents rallied outside of the preschool, calling for better working conditions.

Supporters came together to highlight the fact that some child care providers across Connecticut do not have enough state funding to fully staff their centers and pay their workers a livable wage. They say that’s why some programs across the state are closing their doors to new students, despite long waitlists and high demand.

Antonia Better-Wirz, who is an early childcare coach with ‘All Our Kin’, an early childcare nonprofit, has worked as an early childcare provider for over 30 years since immigrating to the U.S from Colombia. Better-Wirz says the lack of funding affects a majority of working class Latinos, who depend on this work to make ends meet.

“Many people are leaving the field of early education because they’re not making enough money to support their families,” Better-Wirz said. “Early childhood education is a very important component of our community. … If parents cannot have child care, then they are not able to work. And if they are not able to work, the economy will suffer.”

Jacqueline Almanzar, who’s worked in child care for over 25 years and runs a child care facility in Stamford, says legislatures need to support children in a more stable and consistent way because they are the future. Almanzar runs her facility by herself because she can’t afford to pay for additional help.

Marc Jaffe, CEO of Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County (CLC), says his teachers are most affected by this pay gap. Jaffe says 95% of the early education teachers he employs are women and 85% are women of color. He says most are working-class and predominantly speak Spanish.

Jaffe says most teachers at CLC make about $40,000 a year. According to MIT’s living wage calculation for Connecticut, to have a livable income, a person would need to earn more than $70,000 per year to support one child.

“We don’t have enough teachers and the pipeline for teachers has dried up, which means people aren’t entering the field because wages are so low,” Jaffe said. “I am concerned about the economic implications if our industry fails. And, right now, our industry is very fragile, and it will fail if we do not see greater funding support.”

Lesley Cosme Torres is an Education Reporter at Connecticut Public. She reports on education inequities across the state and also focuses on Connecticut's Hispanic and Latino residents, with a particular focus on the Puerto Rican community. Her coverage spans from LGBTQ+ discrimination in K-12 schools, book ban attempts across CT, student mental health concerns, and more. She reports out of Fairfield county and Hartford.