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The History of Inequity in Early Childhood Education


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” This famous quote from Spanish philosopher George Santayana is an important reminder for the early childhood education field. As we try to address knotty questions about compensation, professionalism, quality, and racial equity, understanding the history and evolution of child care in the United States can help us understand how current conditions have evolved. It can also guide us to change course so that we don’t continue to repeat past mistakes.

Here at Child Care Aware of Minnesota, we have been actively discussing racial equity issues and using these conversations to inform every aspect of our work. During these conversations, we discovered an important resource to increase our knowledge about and commitment to equity in early care and education policy and practice.

This past November, the Early Educator Investment Collaborative released a report commissioned from Child Trends entitled Mary Pauper:  A Historical Exploration of Early Care and Education Compensation, Policy, and Solutions. Child Trends’ research illuminates how the stark history of inequity – from the racism, sexism, and oppression codified in US policy to wage disparities and racialized compensation – ultimately devalued the early childhood workforce. The accompanying policy and practice report offers recommendations for centering racial equity in conversations about early childhood educator pay and benefits, preparation, and stability for policymakers, practitioners, and philanthropy.

We hope that this report is widely read and shared so that we can develop a shared understanding of our history and a shared commitment to change going forward.