Confronting Head Start’s Workforce Crisis

The Head Start and Early Head Start workforce is in crisis. Chronic low compensation, challenging job conditions, and better opportunities with employers who pay more are combining to create a vortex of spiraling need that demands immediate action.

At the 2022 National Head Start Annual Conference, NHSA polled attendees on workforce issues in their programs. In addition to direct feedback and quotes from over 900 respondents, key survey findings include:

  • 57% of respondents indicated compensation is the number one reason for staff leaving
  • 85% of respondents indicated staff turnover is higher than in a typical year
  • 90% of respondents’ programs have closed classrooms permanently or temporarily due to lack of staff
  • An estimated average of 30% of staff positions are currently unfilled

Congress Must Act on Head Start’s Workforce Crisis

For too long, early childhood education has relied on the benevolence of workers willing to overlook compensation that puts them among the very lowest of paid professions. Workforce data indicate early educators face severe pay penalties for working with younger children in all states, with poverty rates an average of 7.7 times higher than teachers in the K-8 system. The Head Start and Early Head Start workforce—a corps of dedicated professionals committed to the mission of serving the most vulnerable children and families—has been pushed to a breaking point. Congress must act now to improve baseline compensation for the Head Start workforce by at least $2.5 billion per year to address these systemic and urgent shortcomings.

Related Content