September 7, 2021

Early childcare education advocates push for $15 an hour minimum wage

New Mexico Public Education Department

Photo from the K3 Plus Program annual report.

Without wage parity, New Mexico cannot grow its early childcare education, according to the grassroots organization, OLÉ New Mexico.

OLÉ New Mexico held a virtual meeting Thursday evening to bring attention to the low wages early childcare educators make in New Mexico. 

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, early childcare workers earned, on average, $12.24 per hour in 2020. In New Mexico, the median early childcare worker salary was even lower, at $10.26 an hour in 2020.

That amounts to $21,340 annually, which is below the current poverty level of $26,200 for a family of four.

One woman who spoke, Ivydel Natachu, said she has been an early childcare educator in New Mexico for 16 years.

She said that early childcare educators develop lesson plans and curriculum just as K-12 teachers do, help children transition into kindergarten, grow, develop and meet developmental milestones for the 0-5 age group.

Matthew Henderson, executive director of OLÉ New Mexico, said there is a shortage of early childcare educators in the state and that one in three children in New Mexico do not receive an education prior to kindergarten.

“If we wanted to grow that system, could we build it without paying that wage [of $18 an hour]?” He asked.

Natachu said no.

“It won’t build without this wage,” she said.

OLÉ is pushing for the $450 billion for childcare programs in the federal infrastructure bill to include funds to ensure all childcare workers in the country can earn at least $15/hour. The $1 trillion dollar infrastructure bill passed the Senate last month with bipartisan support but it has yet to be taken up by the House.