Preschool teachers who identify as Latina are facing new pressure to earn a bachelor’s degree, take a demotion — or possibly leave the field entirely, a report published last week suggests.
About 1 in 5 preschool teachers in the United States are Latina, according to the report from UnidosUS, a Latino civil-rights organization based in Washington, D.C. But less than half have a bachelor’s degree.
As states have focused on early-education policy, one way they have tried to improve preschool is by requiring preschool teachers to hold undergraduate degrees. According to the report, 35 states have adopted this requirement for state-funded preschool programs, an increase of nine states in the past decade. This requirement is creating new challenges for Latina preschool teachers.
Many Latina teachers have recently decided to enroll in degree programs, the report suggests. But some say they’ve opted to take a demotion and become a teacher’s assistant rather than spend time and money to pursue a degree. For many teachers, earning a degree doesn’t make financial sense; it often results in a small raise, such as $1 to $2 an hour, the report says, but can be expensive. More than 50% of the study’s participants said they have at least 10 years of classroom experience.
The report is based on focus groups with 94 teachers nationwide who are employed by preschool programs such as Head Start, and interviews with 26 program administrators. One of the focus groups included teachers from Inspire Development Centers in Sunnyside, Yakima County. The study didn’t include Latina teachers who have left the workforce because of more rigorous state rules, so it’s hard to say who has exited the field because of these stricter requirements.
People of color make up only 11.7% of Washington’s K-12 teaching workforce, according to a Seattle Times analysis of the most recent statewide data. That’s compared to about 50% of Washington’s students. About 3,247 of the state’s teachers identify as Latino or Latina.