Cleveland to spend $4.4 million to address childcare costs, early education teacher shortage
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and a host of other civic and nonprofit leaders announced Tuesday a new $4.4 million investment to boost parents’ access to early childhood education, and improve retainment of teaching staff.
The new money, from the city's share of federal American Rescue Plan Act pandemic-relief funds, comes at a time of rising costs for childcare and teachers leaving the field due to low wages and other issues.
The funding will be broken down into two buckets, said Nancy Mendez, president and CEO of the early childhood education nonprofit Starting Point, during a press conference Tuesday.
About $2.5 million will go toward providing bonuses and addressing teacher retention at early childhood centers across the city, and $1.9 million will go toward scholarships for parents to help them pay for childcare or early childhood education.
“There are many hard-working parents that are making just a little too much in terms of being able to access vouchers and assistance for their childcare,” Mendez said.
Mendez said the scholarship program is still being developed, with the goal of being available to parents in the next couple of weeks.
Bibb said the funding won’t “completely solve the problem,” but it’s an early step in the right direction. He and Mendez said the city and other nonprofits will work together to find a long-term solution.
Taja Salett, an early Head Start teacher at the Louis Stokes Head Start Center, an early childhood development center where the press conference occurred, said many teachers are leaving the profession.
“I love what I do, I take pride in what I do, but the harsh reality is that the passion that I have for this job, it doesn’t pay what it’s worth,” she said. “The economy is not the best, inflation is high and I have a family to raise like many of my colleagues.”
Jacklyn Chisholm, president and CEO of Step Forward, which operates a number of Head Start early childhood learning and family involvement centers, said the bonuses for teachers are critical. Step Forward's Head Start centers are losing teachers to other businesses and agencies that pay more, including Amazon, she said.
“The classroom we’re currently in is closed because we don’t have a teacher,” she said.