Early Childhood (EC) educators—the dedicated professionals who work with children ages 0-5—make an average of $12.24 nationally and only $10.26 per-hour here in New Mexico. Home-based educators often make even less because of the long hours they put in to run their home business.
This low pay, and the essential role provided by EC educators that COVID-19 highlighted even more, is why New Mexico’s Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) funds an incentive program that supplements wages for educators through a twice-annual wage supplement while providing scholarships so EC educators can go back to school and increase their training and earning power.
The statewide effort is called the ECECD Scholarship and Wage Supplement Program and CNM Ingenuity is proud to serve as the administrator for the program. With several million dollars in funding, CNMI oversees the Scholarship, Wage Supplement and Bilingual Incentive programs available to EC educators. EC educators can earn two annual wage supplements provided they are working at least 20 hours per-week, make less than $16/hour, and have a minimum of five credits in early childhood education.
The scholarship side of the program covers the entire cost of tuition, books, and fees for any educator taking early childhood education classes at a New Mexico postsecondary institution. Bilingual EC educators can also apply for a one-time supplement of $1,500 and anyone interested in bilingual coursework as part of an Early Childhood degree can have their classes paid for as part of the scholarship program.
The requirement that educators enroll in college classes is key to the wage supplement and scholarship program because several recent studies have shown that well-trained EC educators have a lasting and increased impact on a child’s education and overall success.
“It’s critical for children of all ages, but especially in the early formative years, to have access to educators who are well prepared with the knowledge and skills to educate children in their most critical stage of development,” says Holly Gurule, the CNMI Program Director for the ECECD Scholarship and Pay Incentive Programs. “The education our educators receive helps them create an understanding of child development that provides a background for everything from creating lesson plans and supplemental materials that foster learning, to opening a daycare or preschool center, and assisting parents in developmentally appropriate communication and care of their young children.”
There are 10 levels of wage supplements and they vary based on education level. Educators with at least five credit hours (Level 1) can get two yearly payments of $260. Educators that have an associate degree (Level 5) are eligible for two yearly payments of $1,248. And educators who have a bachelor’s degree (Level 10) are eligible for two payments of $2,548.
Graciela Bazzanella, who moved to New Mexico during the middle of the pandemic, started working at La Esperanza Childhood Development Center and immediately got her Child Development Certificate. Then she found out about the ECECD program from her director and used the scholarship to enroll in the Early Childhood Multicultural Education program at CNM. She’s currently receiving a twice-annual Level 3 wage supplement and will go up to a Level 4 and 5 as she continues her education.
Graciela says that the wage supplement, plus the ability to take free CNM classes online and in the evening have been a huge help.
“As a mom and a full-time employee the flexibility and financial support have made everything so much easier,” she says. “The entire program is really encouraging. I thought, ‘if it’s free and they’re paying me to further my education, why not?!’”
For more information or to apply, visit https://ececdscholarship.org/.