Governor Charlie Baker unexpectedly gave early education funding its largest boost in more than a decade on Wednesday, announcing that he would devote more than $28 million in found money to rate increases for day care centers that serve low-income children.
The funding, if approved by the Legislature, will translate directly into raises for teachers whose pay has languished even as the demands of the job have inched up over the years, as policy makers increasingly came to view early education as the foundation of a student’s success.
The average preschool teacher working in a subsidized day care now makes $26,400 and would claim a pay raise of $1,584 a year — still boosting the hourly rate to only $13.45.
“We are on a desperate crusade to bring teachers on average to $15 an hour,” said Bill Eddy, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Early Education and Care.
The announcement was an about-face for Baker, who previously rebuffed entreaties from early education advocates who have made raising teacher pay their top priority. The dismal pay rates and demands of the job have edged many teachers out of the profession, creating hard-to-fill vacancies at day care centers that then cannot accommodate young students.