May 8 is National Teacher Appreciation Day. As with each special occasion and holiday at ECDC we start with the question of how best to celebrate.
The question is of national importance. In recent weeks we have seen state-wide strikes of teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma. Across the country hundreds of school districts are underfunded resulting in deteriorating facilities, a lack of resources, and poorly paid teachers. The cover story of the January 9, 2018 issue of the New York Times Magazine focused on the plight of early childhood educators in an article entitled “Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?”
The situation for early childhood teachers is severe, as early childhood programs generally receive no state or federal financial assistance. Schools for children under six years of age – whether for-profit or non-profit – are funded largely in form of tuition payments by parents. Tuition fees prohibit access to early education for a significant percentage of children. Yet research studies show that the most critical brain development occurs from 0 to 6 and that high-quality early education offers children a good start in social, emotional and cognitive development that provides a life-long foundation.
At Temple Emanuel we take seriously the issues of quality education and teacher compensation. Over the past five years the Congregation has approved expense budgets that included increases in hourly rates along with compensation for additional weekly teacher preparation and meeting time. The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh plays a leadership role in setting high standards and in contributing with grant support. ECDC teachers have expressed that these measures make a significant impact in achieving high quality and professionalism. ECDC teachers actively engage in learning and dialogue about relevant topics including child development, educational philosophy, curriculum and behavior. We greatly appreciate Temple Emanuel for supporting these improvements and are proud of our teachers for approaching their roles with unwavering dedication.
Let us recognize that:
1) Temple Emanuel has championed improvements in teacher compensation, and
2) Early Childhood Education remains one of the most under compensated professions in the United States
Each year Temple Emanuel devotes a special Simchat Limud – Joy of Learning – Shabbat service in honor of teachers. This year the service will be held at 6:30 pm on May 4. Let us truly celebrate teachers on May 4 and throughout the year by advocating for local and national measures that improve teacher compensation.