Teaching qualifications

Teachers at UMich daycare allege unfair compensation

University of Michigan educators Children’s centers are responsible for teaching and socializing the youngest winners on campus. After more than a year of working as essential employees during a pandemic, teachers at UM daycares are now demanding higher salaries, saying their salaries do not reflect the demands of their job.

The problem

The average salary of a teacher in UM centers is $ 38,588, well below the base salary of a teacher at Ann Arbor Public Schools in $ 43,906.

Le Quotidien spoke with two teachers from the UM nurseries, both of whom wished to remain anonymous for fear of professional reprisals. For the purposes of this article, they will be referred to as Source 1 and Source 2.

Source 1 holds a bachelor’s degree in preschool education and works in the preschool department. They said their main frustration with the situation was that their pay did not reflect their role as educator.

“We work on a 12 month schedule and we are paid for less than what the nine month teachers provide,” said Source 1. “With the same qualifications and the same level of education and the same interactions with the teachers. young people and children. ”

Source 1 said that as a research university, the university should be better able to recognize the importance of its work, which has been proven have lasting positive effects on children’s development.

“We are building the foundations for the educational future of our smaller winners here at University,” said Source 1. “And they don’t want to pay the teachers, who are on the front lines with their children, a living wage. . ”

Source 2, a senior teacher who supervises UM daycare educators, highlighted another issue: retention. The lack of remuneration does not encourage new teachers to take an interest in the program at a time when new teachers are desperately needed, they said.

“I think if I had been paid more and could have paid for child care, it would have been a better situation for my children and me because teaching my children was not a good experience. “Source 2 said.

Jennie McAlpine, senior director of work-life programs at the University’s Work-Life Resource Center, wrote in an email to The Daily that due to low pay, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County are experiencing a shortage educators.

“It’s hard for staff to stay in demanding, chronically underpaid jobs and take care of themselves and their families,” McAlpine wrote.

Working during a pandemic

Source 1 also said these teachers were called back to work in person by the University amid the COVID-19 pandemic, long before vaccines were readily available.

“The University needs us and it has shown it by making us continue to work during the pandemic when many families were working from the comfort of their own homes at the time,” the source 1 said. are not paid to be critical staff. ”

Although children aged 5 to 11 have become eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccines As of November 10, children under five are still not eligible for vaccination. As a result, teachers worked with an unvaccinated population, putting themselves at risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

With weak vaccination rates in K-12 schools as well as staff shortage, Ann Arbor has seen many schools closures this fall due to low numbers.

Source 2 said that child care workers are in an even more serious situation than others, as they teach children who are often sick.

“As we work with children, we often get sick,” Source 2 said. “If you have symptoms of illness you can’t come to work because you have to get tested and have your test results before you go. be able to come back, even if it is just a cold. We are still understaffed and this puts a strain on teachers.

Funding issues

According to McAlpine, 90% of the funding for the Work-Life Resource Center comes directly from tuition fees, while 10% comes directly from the University. This, according to Source 1, is a big part of the problem.

“The University expects daycares to pay for themselves, which increases tuition fees, which is a burden on families and does not allow teachers in our programs to earn a living,” he said. declared source 1.

Source 2 reiterated that teachers’ pay is directly linked to the price of tuition fees, but stressed that this does not automatically mean that female educators are paid fairly.

“I know they pay us whatever they can pay,” Source 2 said. “But the system doesn’t work. We have to be subsidized by something. “

McAlpine said that compared to other universities and communities, the University of Michigan works hard to help teachers and their daycares. In 2018, the University added an additional $ 500,000 to general fund operating support, which helped increase entry-level salaries, McAlpine said.

the people

According to source 2, the work of educators is not only important, but also toll on teachers. Source 2 said that teachers in the program are often expected to act both as educators and as support for families.

“You are there to support the growth and development of the child, and the child is so closely linked to the family that you are emotionally involved in the life of the family,” the source 2 said.

This work too, according to Source 2, encourages people to work together. Source 2 said classrooms have three teachers at a time and the close relationship with these teachers can be stressful, especially as they are trying to navigate children who are constantly developing and growing.

“You work with two other teachers, you almost live together in this classroom,” Source 2 said. “We joke that your team of teachers is kind of like a wedding you didn’t choose and that you work together to raise children, all of different levels. “

“I expect more from the University of Michigan”

Both sources said this undercompensation has consequences for daycare teachers, especially for housing and other living expenses.

Lodging Costs in Ann Arbor are about 17% higher than the national average, with the median cost of a home in Ann Arbor being $ 407,378 and the median rent being $ 1,276 per month. Grocery costs in Ann Arbor are also 10% higher than the national average, and health care costs are 25% higher, making the overall cost of living in Ann Arbor beyond the reach of many. daycare workers.

Source 1 said that a significant majority of her colleagues cannot afford to live in Ann Arbor or the surrounding area. Although they don’t go into work for the money, many people choose to leave the centers in search of better pay, the source 1 said.

“People come into this business because they are good at working with children and they understand child development,” Source 1 said. “Because our job is not easy. ”

Emily Youatt, director of undergraduate education at the School of Public Health and a mother of three children who have been or are currently enrolled in UM daycares, said she and her children had only received as exemplary care from early childhood educators. Their low pay is of great concern, Youatt said.

“For a long time, I struggled with what I know to be really low pay for those working in U of M daycares, which are mostly low paid women,” Youatt said.

Although women dominate the field of education, they are systematically underpaid compared to men. On average, female educators earn considerably less per year than their male counterparts, and this gap only grows with time and experience.

Child care not only took care of her children and allowed her to work, Youatt said, but they also gave her three children a “wonderful start in life”, which makes the low pay even more upsetting.

“I expect more from the University of Michigan,” Youatt said. “I expect more from an educational institution and from the fact that we have these teachers, whom we know their work is so important and yet they are paid so little.

The solution

According to McAlpine, the process of securing more funding for the centers would involve convening a task force to draft a plan justifying and defining the necessary resources. This plan would then be transmitted to various levels of administration of the University before being finally approved by the Board of Regents. But, McAlpine added, this underpayment problem is bigger than the University.

“This is a national problem and I hope we can all work together to find solutions,” McAlpine wrote.

A potential solution could be found in recent legislation passed at both state and federal levels to support early childhood education.

Governor Whitmer’s new allocation of $ 1.5 billion support early childhood education and President Biden’s National Infrastructure Bill who would support many people in care / education positions are all indications that America can finally address this decades-old problem, ”McAlpine wrote.

When contacted for comment, the University’s Public Affairs Office directed The Daily to McAlpine.

Daily News reporter Paige Hodder and Daily News contributor Riley Hodder can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]