Why Are Our Most Important Teachers Paid the Least?

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Media Outlet: The New York Times

Mary Alice McCarthy was quoted in a New York Times Magazine article on increasing credential requirements without first raising wages for early childhood educators:

The other argument is that increasing credential requirements without first raising wages places too much of a burden on already-overtaxed teachers. Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills at the New America foundation, has proffered a different approach: apprenticeships. Like many human-service jobs, she says, teaching is best taught through “iterative interactions,” where a person with experience helps a newcomer identify and respond to challenges. And the structure of an apprenticeship may be better suited to teachers who need to work full time while they learn. “You can’t say the goal is to level the playing field for low-income kids,” McCarthy says, “and then cut low-income teachers who have been doing this work forever out of the equation.”


A Philadelphia-area community college, a union and a number of local preschools joined forces to make the first attempts at training preschool teachers in this way. The program pairs apprentice teachers with mentors as they progress through a structured curriculum while working in the classroom full time. They get four wage increases over a two-year period, so that by the time they complete the program, which grants them both an associate degree and a journeyman card, they are already earning $2 to $3 more an hour. “That’s a life-changing increase,” McCarthy says.

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Mary Alice McCarthy is the director of the Center on Education and Skills with the Education Policy program at New America. Her work examines the intersection between higher education, workforce development, and job training policies