Building a business
Index tracks changes in early childhood policies
“Tinkering around the edges” is the way the Early Childhood Workforce Index 2018 describes efforts to improve access and quality of early childhood education over the past two years. It also refers to “notable, but uneven, strides” in improving the education and training levels of the early childhood workforce.
“Furthermore, the current system reflects gender, class, racial, and cultural inequities that exist across U. S. institutions,” the index says. “The time is long overdue to move from the question of why our nation must improve early childhood jobs to a focus on how to make it happen.”
The index takes it lead from Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education, a report issued by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in 2018. The index quotes from the report as follows:
“The deficiencies in the current system are hurtful to all children and families in need of ECE (early care and education) options and the adults who are ECE practitioners and educators—who are themselves often in extreme economic distress.”
The report “calls for a new national financing structure for early care and education. The report establishes a broad consensus among researchers, policymakers, and practitioners that ECE for children from birth to kindergarten entry should be funded as a public good, equivalent to K-12.…”
To buy the Transforming report ($65), see www.nap.edu/catalog/24984/transforming-the-financing-of-early-care-and-education.
The workforce index is the second publication—the first was issued in 2016—on early childhood employment and conditions on a state-by-state basis. It was published by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California at Berkeley.
To learn how your state performed on policies regarding teacher compensation, workforce data, qualifications, financial resources, work environments, income supports, and health and well-being, see page 14 of the index at http://cscce.berkeley.edu/files/2018/06/1-Executive-Summary.pdf.
What do you do with the information?
Within your program, consider the needs of your staff and the families of children in your care. How do their needs compare with those described in the index? Discuss your values as individuals and as a group. Does the information suggest simple, low-cost steps that you can take to improve lives?
Post findings on your website and invite viewers to comment. Monitor social media to determine what people are saying about your program and early childhood education in general. Are there misconceptions that you can correct? Can the information help you plan business strategy and make decisions?
Share the information with colleagues at early childhood conferences and with local school and community leaders. Perhaps you can work together to take small, positive steps at the local level.
Thank-you notes: Worth more than you might think!
You return to work on Monday pleased to see the cleaned-up play yard. You smile as you remember how several parents spent the weekend with you—repairing the picnic table, defining trike paths, tilling the garden, and trimming tree limbs.
“Maybe I should write thank-you notes,” you think. “But I don’t have time, and besides, thank-you notes are too old-fashioned for young parents these days. I will probably make them feel awkward.”
You look out the window and feel a surge of gratitude. “Well, maybe a just a quick note to each of them.”
A new study from the University of Texas at Austin shows that writing thank-you notes is more powerful that we think—for both the writer and the recipient.
Amit Kumar, assistant professor of marketing at the UT McCombs School of Business and lead author of the study, acknowledged that most people know that gratitude improves a person’s well-being. “But people think it’s not a big deal,” he said.
He and co-researcher Nicolas Epley from the University of Chicago conducted a series of letter-writing experiments in which the subjects wrote thank-you letters and rated their expected effects on the recipients, and then the recipients rated the impact on themselves.
“We found that expressers may worry inordinately about how they are expressing gratitude—their ability to articulate the words ‘just right’—whereas recipients are focused more on warm and positive intent,” wrote Kumar and Epley in a report in Psychological Science. Unfortunately, the worry about one’s competence in writing a thank-you note may lessen the expression of gratitude in everyday life.
They recognized, of course, that people are more likely to write a note to someone they believe will respond positively—in other words, they are guided by the anticipated mood of the recipient. Even so, the study showed that those who wrote out their gratitude felt happier than before.
“What we saw is that it only takes a couple of minutes to compose letters like these—thoughtful and sincere ones,” Kumar said. “It comes at little cost, but the benefits are larger than people expect.”
Tips on writing a thank-you note:
Be prompt. Avoid delaying a month or more.
Spell the recipient’s name correctly.
Begin with the words “Thank you” or “I’m so grateful….”
Be specific about their gift or contribution. If the gift is money, state the amount because the donor may want this for tax records.
Look to the future. How will the gift be used? What does it mean to you and your program? When will you next see the recipient?
Say thanks again in closing.
For more details on the study, see https://news.utexas.edu/2018/08/28/showing-gratitude-improves-well-being and https://medium.com/texas-mccombs/thanks-but-no-thanks-b693e80942d0.
Stocking your classroom: Money saving ideas
Many teachers in all kinds of schools, from child care facilities to high schools, spend their own money for supplies they need in the classroom. Amounts can range from an average of $250 a year to $1,000 or more.
Are there ways to recoup part of these expenses? Or perhaps spend less out-of-pocket and still get the supplies you need?
The good news is that if you teach kindergarten up to 12th grade and you work at least 900 hours a year, you may qualify for a $250 deduction on your federal income tax for 2018. The bad news is that if you’re a preschool teacher, you do not qualify.
A deduction is a way to lower your income so you pay less in taxes. More bad news: In this case, it’s not much. For example, if you earn $35,000 a year and spent at least $250 on supplies, your taxable income goes down to $34,750.
How to figure your expenses? Count the cost of classroom supplies, books, professional development workshops, and a computer or furniture for your classroom, for example. Figure the mileage you used to travel to conferences, field trips, and other education activities at 56.5 cents a mile. If your employer paid for the expense or reimbursed you, you cannot count the expenses toward the deduction.
If you plan to use the deduction, save all your receipts for classroom expenses. Keep them in a separate file, and note expenses in an online or hard-copy appointment book to jog your memory at tax preparation time.
Be sure to consult your accountant or tax attorney before filing. The above information comes from the Internal Revenue Service, Topic Number 458—Educator Expense Deduction, Internal Revenue Service, www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc458.
Community and online sources
Early childhood educators are adept at using recyclables—milk jugs, butter tubs, cardboard, scrap paper, and scrap fabric, for example—in learning activities. Encourage teachers to make a list of needed items and then invite parents to save and bring them. But many items, such as paints and facial tissue, need to be purchased or received as donations. Some ideas:
With the winter holidays approaching, some parents may feel inclined to give their child’s caregiver or teacher a token of appreciation. They may give personal items or baked goods, but some may ask for suggestions.
Teacher Appreciation Week will be May 6-10, 2019. Mark your calendar and inform parents and supporters of the opportunity to donate supplies and gift cards.
Yard sales and thrift stores often offer children’s toys and books at low cost. Before buying, check for damaged and dangerous parts, and consider whether the item is washable and sturdy enough for daily use.
Check the local newspaper and online for discounts and sales at local stores. Regardless of whether a sale is advertised, encourage caregivers and teachers to ask for a discount when buying supplies for the classroom.
Google “freebies for teachers,” “teacher discounts,” and similar terms online. You may hit upon a website such as giftcardgranny.com, which touts a list of the “81 most lucrative discounts for teachers” at stores such as Staples and Michaels. Call ahead to confirm discounts before going to a store. When you find good deals, share the information with fellow teachers.
In August, look for back-to-school sales in everything from local supermarkets to national retailers.
Look for sales tax holidays, which are offered in in 16 states including Texas (first weekend of August).
Consider shopping rewards and loyalty programs, especially at stores and online (such as Amazon.com), where you shop frequently. But read the terms and conditions carefully, and calculate savings beforehand to make sure the rewards are worth it.
If you’re a nonprofit, consider asking board members to donate supplies or conduct a fundraising campaign for teacher supplies.
Consider crowdfunding programs such as GoFundMe. But do research first. The effort may take more time and creativity than you expect. You will need to tell your story, perhaps make a video, send emails, and share on social media. Be alert to fees to process credit cards and to a suggested gratuity to help keep the program in business.