Linda King-Rice

Occupation: 
Teacher

I have been asked to speak for a few minutes on why organizing a union in the field of Early Childhood Education is important to me. While some of my reasons may differ from yours, I am sure that we share quite a number of similar goals that we feel needs to be accomplished in our field.  I would assume that the most obvious reasons are shared across the board from city to city and state to state; those being higher pay, and better benefits, including good health care, and sick and retirement benefits.  However, there are other reasons that make organizing of our field beneficial for all concerned.

Over the years, those of us in early childhood education have been viewed as glorified baby sitters. This must change.  We should be viewed as the highly qualified professionals that we are. We are teachers, in every sense of the word. I cringe at the use of the words “daycare workers” to define who we are.  Although we do provide the best of care for those in our charge, we have also been assigned the undaunted task of shaping and preparing the minds of pre-school children, and providing the first stepping stone to all of their future learning.  These children come to us when they are at the most formative and impressionable point in their lives. This is the time when much of the instruction, learning, and structure are retained.  What we impart to these children form the core of their future learning experience. Without a doubt, we are on a level equal to or greater than any teacher in the public school system, because ours is the very foundation upon which all of their future education will be built.  With the support that organizing will bring us, we can finally be recognized for the contributions that we make to education, take our rightful places alongside other educators, with pay that is commensurate to Boston Public School Teachers.

Another reason that it is important to organize is the opportunity for higher education. As you are all aware, those in our field are now required to have a Bachelors Degree in Education. This is wonderful. I say, go beyond that if you can.  But, there are changes that should be made to help us accomplish that goal.  We are more than eager to submit to that stipulation, after all, the more educated we are, the better prepared we are to provide the best possible education for our children. As things currently stand, we do not possess the financial resources to readily comply with the demand. Because our wages are sometimes lower than the average factory or office worker, we cannot afford to pay for higher education. More is being asked of us without adequate compensation.  I feel that provisions should be made to afford teachers in early childhood education the same opportunities for further professional development that are provided teachers in the public school system. With representation by the American Federation of Teachers, we can campaign for the financial assistance that we deserve to acquire the additional education that is required of many of us.

Finally, I believe that it is vitally important that we have a voice in what happens in the work place.  Since we are the first line of defense in the early education of our children, we are in the best position to know what is needed in our field. We should be able to assist in the formation of programs designed to benefit the children in our centers, as well as development of quality teacher oriented development. Organizing our field will give us that voice. We have nowhere to go, except up. We have the opportunity to bring respect, recognition, and economic gain to our profession.  Embracing this movement allows us to be pro-active in our own future, and in that of the profession and the children that we have dedicated ourselves to.