Georgia launches childcare program to keep early educators from quitting

Georgia is launching a program aimed at keeping early educators from leaving their jobs. 

This comes after pandemic funding for childcare providers ended a few weeks ago. 

The pilot program will have the state pay for 75% of an educator’s childcare costs if their children attend the same childcare center where they work.

Their employer will have to cover at least 15% of the cost.

Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) Amy Jacobs says the turnover rate is very high.

"We’re seeing between 20% and 30% turnover, that creates so many challenges. It limits enrollment," Jacobs said.

She says childcare providers are getting desperate.

 "I just got an email this morning from a provider that I visited this week saying … ’Thanks for the visit, but I just had a teacher resign, a longtime teacher, quality teacher that just resigned. We’ve got to find a solution to this. Can we talk and brainstorm?’" Jacobs said.

The agency decided to try a new childcare tuition assistance pilot program, which Jacobs says was inspired by feedback from teachers and providers.

"We have absolutely heard from teachers directly, and from childcare providers, that they think this will make a difference," Jacobs said.

Providers will apply online, and 30 of them will be selected statewide to participate.

Jacobs says the 30 providers will be selected randomly, but they do want to make sure they’re testing it with a variety across the state.

She says they plan to do it for a year and then evaluate whether to expand it.

"It is really exciting, especially as we’re looking at our next generation of early childhood professionals who do have young children," said Tonia Durden, clinical professor in the Department of Early Childhood Elementary Education at Georgia State University.

Durden says DECAL’s program is an innovative way to address the problem.

She says the low pay for childcare professionals combined with the high cost of childcare, makes it extremely difficult for teachers with young children. 

"In many cases, the tuition for the young children exceeds their pay every month," Durden said. 

Both Durden and Jacobs acknowledge the problem won’t be totally solved until pay increases for the profession as a whole. 

"Of course, compensation is the number one thing that will help them stay in the profession. Unfortunately, at DECAL, we don’t control their compensation," Jacobs said. 

Applications for the pilot program will go live on DECAL’s website on Oct. 11. Providers will have until the Oct. 20 to apply.