Biden’s Salary Plan For Head Start Teachers Could Backfire

President Joe Biden’s plan to raise salaries for Head Start teachers could have an effect opposite of his administration’s wishes.

The Biden administration recently unveiled a funding plan to increase the salaries of thousands of Head Start teachers who deal with low-income children, but such a plan could be devastating to the program itself by reducing enrollment.

Head Start programs are already in distress with staffing shortages, mostly due to the low salaries of many teachers in the institution. As a result, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) revealed its plan requiring Head Start to increase the salaries of its employees by as much as $10,000 over the next seven years, as reported by the Associated Press (AP).

“Early educators make poverty wages in many places,” a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, Anna Markowitz, said. “There are real consequences to these low wages.”

“It’s unfortunate we had to wait for the turnover to become a major crisis,” Markowitz added.

The AP reported that Head Start teachers, on average, make about $39,000 a year — an amount far less than other public educators. Considering such a low salary, the federal government estimates that one in five Head Start teachers chose to opt out of the classroom in 2022, creating a shortage of teachers.

With staffing shortages taking the Head Start program by storm, hundreds of thousands of children across the U.S. are being held on waitlists as classrooms begin closing, according to the National Head Start Association.

Children currently in Head Start could see themselves or their peers taken out of the classroom if teachers’ salaries are raised and Congress doesn’t allocate enough money for the program, per AP.

Cincinnati is one of several states that are seeing the effect of staffing shortages on children, according to the vice president for early childhood at the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency, Renee Daniel.

Daniel was ecstatic when she heard of the Biden administration’s proposal to increase teachers’ salaries but realized that without the proper funding, she would have to cut over 800 teachers from Head Start.

“Right now we’re suffering, and we’re not serving the children anyway, because we don’t have the staff,” she said.