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Groundwork Ohio Report Shows Childcare Workers Drastically Underpaid

Ohio’s childcare workers rank among the state’s most economically vulnerable employees, according to a factsheet released Friday by Groundwork Ohio, which lobbies for childcare workers. 

The profession employs more than 53,000, and most are women. Half of those workers rely on some kind of public assistance.

That’s because wages are rock bottom: the average Ohio childcare worker makes roughly $20,000 a year – even though they are likely to have credentials beyond a diploma.

The state's average wage is $54,000 annually.

Low wages ironically mean more than half of childcare workers are themselves eligible for childcare assistance, says Julia Hohner, spokesperson for Groundwork Ohio.

“So many of them are serving families who qualify for a subsidy under Ohio’s publicly funded child care program," she says. "And a lot of those same early educators qualify for the same program themselves."

Nationally, the profession also suffers from a wage gap. About one-fourth of white and Hispanic child care workers make $15 an hour, compared to less than one-fifth of African-American childcare providers.

Hohner suspects the same is true in Ohio. One reason may be African Americans care for the youngest children and those jobs pay the least.

"Teachers who are in infant classrooms are making substantially less than those in pre-school classrooms. And there's a disproportionate number of African Americans in infant classrooms," Hohner says.

Groundwork says low wages lead to constant turnover, which disrupts “the consistent, nurturing environment that developing children need to thrive."

Ohio already offers financial incentives for childcare workers to get advanced degrees and certifications. The state should strengthen those incentives, Hohner says, with options like state-backed scholarships or degree completion rewards.

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