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How The T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship Supports Early Educators

Episode 211 – The early education workforce is key to providing a solid foundation for the youngest in our society. In this episode, we interview Marsha Basloe, President of the Child Care Services Association (CCSA) about the state of the workforce and learn more about the TEACH Early Childhood Scholarship program and WAGE$ program that supports educators in levelling up their own education as well as provides financial incentives for doing so. 

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Episode Transcript

Marsha BASLOE:

So, there are lots of challenges. But I like to think about the positive. I think the positives are that we are here and that we are going to continue to teach our youngest children because they’re always going to be important.

Ron SPREEUWENBERG: 

Marsha, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!

BASLOE:

Thank you, I’m really pleased to be here!

SPREEUWENBERG: 

We’re pleased to have you! To our listeners: we have on the show today Marsha Basloe. She’s the president of Child Care Services Association [CCSA]. Marsha, great to have you. As always, let’s start off learning a little bit about you in your journey into early-childhood education.

BASLOE:

Well, it actually took me a little while to get to early-childhood [education]. I started my career as a high school English teacher and then kept working my way down. I then worked with middle school students to get them to finish high school and go on to college. And then eventually I got to early childhood.

I have to say that when I got to early childhood, I thought, “Wow, this is actually where I should be.” And I landed in North Carolina where I had the opportunity to really be in a place where early childhood was a leader. It had Smart Start Initiative by Governor [Jim] Hunt. So, it was a really wonderful steeping in early childhood.

And then I moved to New York, where I had the opportunity to lead a CCRR network – a Child Care Resource and Referral network – and be part of the governor’s state advisory council. And then I had the great opportunity of being senior adviser at the Administration for Children and Families at the federal government, working for Linda Smith as the deputy assistant secretary for early childhood development.

And then I really… it was very exciting when I saw that CCSA had the president’s position open and I was able to come back to North Carolina. It’s really been… it’s really taken all of my knowledge together. And I’m really pleased to be here. So, that’s kind of my road, my journey, yes.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And we all know that folks don’t get into early-childhood education to make the big bucks. So, why did you feel that it was your place to be, like you said?

BASLOE:

Well, it’s interesting. I think I finally got to the point where I thought, “Wow, this is really where it all happens.” And you read all about the brain development in early childhood. And I got to actually see it. I got to see that the neuron connections are happening and the children are really growing and that the work that we do in early childhood with high quality educated teachers can make a difference in children’s lives. And then it makes a difference in families and it makes a difference in communities.

So, I just felt like it’s kind of the foundation of a house. I’ve never built a house but they always said to me, “Check the foundation before you buy your house.” So, I’m going to check the foundation. Early childhood is the foundation of all of our lives. So, I’m kind of pleased to be working on the foundation.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, absolutely. And tell us a little bit more about Child Care Services Association, then. So, you’re the president of the association. What’s it all about?

BASLOE:

So, Child Care Services Association is one of the most unique organizations that I’ve ever worked for, and I’ve worked for a number of them. It’s unique because it’s local, it’s state and it’s national. It’s local because we have services about four families in the triangle with Child Care Resource and Referral services, scholarship services. We run Durham Pre-K; we have three kitchens that we run to feed childcare programs, as well as the Child Care and Adult Food Program.

And then we also have statewide services. So, we have technical assistance and professional development, infant-toddler work; we have really key, key programs: the TEACH [Teacher Education And Compensation Helps] Early Childhood Scholarship program, the Child Care WAGE$ program and the Infant Toddler Educator Rewards Program, which are just crucial to the early childhood field.

We’re working on early childhood homelessness in the state, as well as systems research. We’re in the middle of doing an early childhood workforce study. And then not only is it local, state, but it’s national. We have 22 states and D.C. that we license the TEACH and WAGE$ programs with. So, again, it’s so unique because it is local, state and national.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Interesting, yeah. And that is definitely unique. We’ve had lots of guests on the show who are usually one of the three. But it’s not that common to see all three across the board. Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the programs you mentioned? So, maybe the TEACH Early Childhood Scholarship, to start with?

BASLOE:

I’d love to tell you about the TEACH Early Childhood Scholarship. So, in order to do so, I think I want to have you think about the fact that we have a vision. And our agency vision and our TEACH vision is that every child in an early childhood setting has a teacher who is well-educated and well-compensated. And every early-childhood teacher has access to affordable college education and workforce supports and earns a livable wage.

So, that’s the vision that we have for those TEACH and WAGE$. The TEACH Scholarship program, the overview is that it’s a debt-free college education with comprehensive supports for diverse, working-in-early-childhood professionals. They can go to school and we will help them to pay for their classes and their books and additional fees so that when they graduate they do not have a debt, but they have a degree.

It’s a systemic driver that leverages a more accessible and responsive higher education system because we work really closely with the higher education system across the state to have a career pathway for [the] early-childhood workforce. And it’s a multi-state collaborative, as I mentioned. We’re in a number of states with an accountable strategy to increase the knowledge, the skills and the compensation and career commitment of a diverse early-childhood workforce.

So, the TEACH Scholarship has five key components. There’s a comprehensive scholarship so that it can cover tuition and fees and books and travel and paid release time, which is a key piece. It’s for a college education, so it could be for an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. And there’s a certain amount of credit hours that you would need to take for a scholarship.

It’s tied to compensation so that all TEACH recipients receive either a bonus or a raise upon the end of their contract completion. And we work with different programs to customize that.

There’s a true commitment: every TEACH scholarship requires the recipient to make a “longevity commitment”. The longevity commitment varies by what scholarship they have, how much time. But they do make a commitment so that there’s a less than 10% turnover rate for teachers in the scholarship program among AA [Associate of Arts] and MBA [Master of Business Administration] recipients.

There’s all kinds of different scholarships. Anyone is eligible if they’re working in childcare at least 30 hours a week and they earn less than a defined income cap and they have the support of their employer.

And it’s really quite an amazing program. And I’ve been so fortunate to be able to work with Edith Locke, who is head of the TEACH program in North Carolina. In fact, it’s really been a privilege to work with the whole staff, [the] talented staff in both TEACH and WAGE$. They’re amazing programs and I think that I’m helping to make them stronger as we continue on.

The early childhood WAGE$ compensation program is equally special. It provides an education-based salary supplement. You probably hear a thread: “We’re all about educating our teachers, educating them and paying them.” And so the WAGE$ program provides an education-based salary supplement to teachers who are low-paid.

And unfortunately, our early-childhood teachers do not make a lot of money. It’s designed to increase retention, education and compensation. And in those programs, this year is the 30th year of TEACH, the 25th year of WAGE$ and we are in our second year of Infant Toddler Educator Awards, which is a salary compensation program just for infant toddler educators.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Awesome! And you mentioned there with the TEACH program, support of the employer. So if I am an early-childhood educator employer, why would it make sense for me to pursue the TEACH Early Childhood Scholarship for my educators? Is that something that I look into as the employer? Or is it something that my educators come to me and ask for? And what’s in it for me? How does that work?

BASLOE:

So, it’s kind of a mix of both. The employer would also look at having an educated workforce because when you have an educated workforce, you are working on a high-quality early childhood program. We also have a… North Carolina has a five-star system. So, an educated workforce helps you to move up in the stars in our system.

The educator would want to go back to school and ask the employer for support. And it really is a commitment on both parts, commitment because the educator is going to go to school and it takes time. And the employer is going to provide some relief time so that they can study, that they can do well.

And it also means that if an educator and an employer come together, that they have increased earnings for an AA degree and that there’s better retention. And we know that continuity of care for young children is so important and that we don’t want to have turnover with our teachers.

So, it really is a win-win for both the educator as well as the employer, and I think the state. We have a really… I mean, we are one of the most educated early-childhood state in the country, and it truly is because of teaching wages.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Interesting, it makes a lot of sense. And from what you’re saying, it sounds like a good candidate for the program would be, let’s say, someone who’s an early-childhood educator who maybe didn’t have the opportunity to get the level of education that they’re seeking currently.

And they’re working in a position and have a great relationship with their employer, but they really want to go and get that degree that they’ve always wanted to sort of up their game in early-childhood education. And the employer wants to support them and retain that great talent and that great educator over the long run. Is that right?

BASLOE:

That sounds fabulous, you got it! And the nice thing about getting degree’d teachers is that, at some point, sometimes teachers don’t only stay in the classroom. But by educating our early-childhood field, there’s a number of careers that you can have and they all start with an early-childhood education.

So, you can be a teacher; you can run a family childcare program; you can be a family specialist or a counselor; you could be a professional development trainer working for a Child Care Resource and Referral agency or a Smart Start agency; you could be an early childhood program officer at a foundation; you could be a researcher. All of these things, all of these careers really start with having an education in early childhood. So, we are growing early-childhood teachers and early-childhood leaders across the state.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Awesome. And something you also mentioned was “education-based salary supplement.” What does that mean?

BASLOE:

So, it means that you get a certain amount of money based on the education that you have. So, we have the WAGE$ program [which] has actually the chart – as does the awards program. But it depends on… what level of education that you have determines the amount of your salary supplement.

And we know that public schools pay salary supplements to teachers. And so this is a salary supplement for our early-childhood teachers who either have a degree [or] are continuing to work on a degree, depending on the tier.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

And again, is that something that you would, like, apply for as a childcare organization or as an educator? Like, how does that work?

BASLOE:

Educators do apply – they apply directly to us. We do a complete review of their education, where they work, the number of hours that they are working. WAGE$ is funded partly by the state and Smart Start in 55 counties, 55 partnerships across the state. And so we would check to see if you were in a county that was funding WAGE$, if you were applying for infant-toddler educator rewards – it’s a statewide program.

We would look to see your education. In order to get an award supplement you would have to have an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. So, it’s subtly saying, “We will give you a little extra money if you go back to school and you get a degree.”

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Very cool! And I assume the idea behind all this is to attract and retain great talent in early-childhood education in the state, is that right?

BASLOE:

Oh, it absolutely is. And [if] you look in the last few months during the pandemic, our childcare programs have been key and essential. And the reason that we have been able to serve the families that we have is because we have a highly educated, caring pool of teachers who have been trained in North Carolina.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

It’s a very interesting program. And I know – we’re in Ontario here, our company, HiMama – and one thing that I think early-childhood education struggles with here, which I’m sure is similar in other provinces and states, is that teachers get paid more money than early-childhood educators. So, even if you are an early-childhood educator, you might go and become a grade one teacher or a kindergarten teacher and get into the school board program just for the financial compensation, right?

And something like this I could see as being a real incentive to stay in early-childhood education because lots of times they don’t want to leave – they’re same as same as you, right? They see the fundamental impact at that age. But you’ve got to pay the bills, too, right?

BASLOE:

Absolutely. And I actually see it – I’m one of the few people, I think, who probably sees it – in a couple of different ways. Early childhood really is through third grade. And so if we’re training teachers in the early-childhood field and they do go to the public schools where they can make more money, I don’t think it’s a bad thing if the public schools have an educator that’s steeped in early–childhood development.

And yet at the same time, we’re able to keep the early-childhood teachers with our TEACH and our salary supplements in the classroom if that’s really where their passion is. So, I think it’s an all-and.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, that’s a good point. There’s certainly value I could see in having early-childhood educators in the public school system and sort of, like, that kindergarten-through-to-grade -three age group to help bring that different perspective and early-childhood educators bring, right?

BASLOE:

Well, it basically means that we’re not dealing with sitting at a desk and that they understand that children need to play and they need to have developmental experiences. So, yes, I think early-childhood development background is so helpful and in lots of different jobs, quite honestly.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Wonderful. And we’d be remiss not to talk about some of the challenges in this COVID-19 environment we’re in. What are some of the things you’re seeing and hearing, sort of like challenges and positive success stories battling through this?

BASLOE:

Well, it certainly has been a challenging time. But as I mentioned, in North Carolina, at least, we helped to man the 800 number so that families who are frontline workers could call and find childcare. And then we’ve helped childcare programs to reopen.

And we are seeing that there are less children who are in childcare right now for a number of reasons: One, parents may be concerned about sending them back. Two, parents may not be working and so they don’t have the resources to send them back. But we we’ve really worked closely with our childcare health consultants as well to make sure that there is health and safety in childcare programs. Our childcare centers and our family childcare homes have been true heroes through this.

So, there are lots of challenges. But I like to think about the positives. I think the positives are that we are here and that we are going to continue to teach our youngest children because they’re always going to be important.

It’s clear that prior to the effects of COVID-19, the childcare system was not exactly working well. The pandemic has exacerbated and it has demonstrated its weaknesses: parents can’t afford quality; childcare programs are struggling to cover their operating costs; teachers aren’t paid enough, we know that. And often access to quality is too often determined by poverty, race and geography.

So, those are things that… I don’t think they’re going to go away but we can now fix them. COVID-19 has really raised the awareness. And I believe that once you raise awareness like that, you can fix it. And we won’t fix it overnight but I think we are going to work to make a stronger early-childhood system moving forward.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Yeah, absolutely. We’re seeing that, for sure. And having early-childhood education and childcare be front-and-center in terms of importance, let’s hope it’s a lasting conversation.

This has been a really interesting conversation and certainly a model for other states and provinces and jurisdictions to look to and learn from. Marsha, if our listeners would like to learn more about Child Care Services Association or get in touch with you or the Association, where can they go to get more information?

BASLOE:

They can go to our website: www.ChildCareServices.org. We’re on Instagram, Facebook – I have an amazing communications person who us on all of the social media. So, you can search for Child Care Services Association and then feel free to contact me at M.Basloe@ChildCare Services.org.

SPREEUWENBERG: 

Wonderful, Marsha! Thank you for everything you’re doing and your team at Child Care Services Association. All the support you’re providing to the educators at their sounds like lots of wonderful opportunities out there with the scholarships, the subsidies and the awards. And thanks for joining us on the Preschool Podcast today!

BASLOE:

It really has been my pleasure, yhanks so much. You take care!

Carmen Choi

Carmen is the Marketing Coordinator and Preschool Podcast Manager on the HiMama team. She's been working with childcare business owners and consultants for 3 years. She is passionate making connections that empower the ECE Community through knowledge-sharing to support better outcomes for children, their families, and society!

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