Price, and Bradley, 2005).1 Lack of health insurance is a significant issue; it may influence early childhood educators’ interactions at work, their overall financial status, and thus their ability to remain in the field over time, fueling heavy personnel turnover rates.
The turnover of early childhood teachers is quite high in some settings. A longitudinal study in California by Whitebook and colleagues (2001) found that 76 percent of the teachers employed by centers in 1996 and 82 percent of teachers employed by centers in 1994 had left these jobs by 2000 (Whitebook et al., 2001). Such high turnover rates have often been associated with low compensation (Whitebook and Sakai, 2003). For example, Whitebook and colleagues (2001) found that early childhood educators receiving higher than average wages were more likely to remain in their jobs, and those who left the field were more likely to go to higher paying jobs. Wage levels are often directly associated with the program type or sector in which the individual is employed.
One national study showed that, on average, center-based teachers were in their current programs for 6.8 years, teachers in programs in public schools and religious settings were working in their programs for 7.8 years, and teachers in for-profit centers were in their programs for 5.6 years (Saluja, Early, and Clifford, 2002). Confirming these data, a five-state study found that publicly operated prekindergarten programs were found to have lower turnover rates than privately operated programs (Bellm et al., 2002). On average, publicly operated prekindergarten programs offered higher wages than privately operated programs (Gilliam and Marchesseault, 2005), which may be an explanation for the difference in turnover. Moreover, when ECE teachers are compared with K-12 teachers, the salaries for K-12 teachers are significantly higher (Kagan et al., 2008) and turnover is lower (Provasnik and Dorfman, 2005).
Teacher turnover is relevant for all students, and it is particularly important for young children because of the impact on their development and learning. High levels of unpredictable turnover have been linked to poorer developmental outcomes for children, as well as to lower quality service (Helburn, 1995; Howes and Hamilton, 1993; Howes, Phillips, and Whitebook, 1992; Phillips et al., 2001; Whitebook, Sakai, and Howes, 1997, as cited in Kagan et al., 2008).
Although health insurance data were not collected for the remaining 51 percent of early childhood teachers, some probably received health insurance through a spouse when a spouse was present and had health coverage, purchased it privately, or purchased it through Medicaid (Mark Price, personal communication, January 12, 2009).