Roy Gilbert

Low pay: A stumbling block for quality child care

a child posing for the camera: Michelle Masiwemai takes a selfie with some of the children she cared for at Best of the Southwest day care center in Las Cruces.

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LAS CRUCES – Michelle Masiwemai — like many early childhood workers — is a mom. But her job at a Las Cruces home-based child care center didn’t pay enough to support her 8-year-old daughter, who lives with her parents in Guam while she and her fiancé try to get on firmer financial footing. The daughter of two educators, including a kindergarten teacher who now teaches early childhood education at the college level, Masiwemai was raised in a family of 10 children.

“My whole life I’ve been around children. I was a babysitter. I was the little girl who took care of all the little kids at the parties and planned all the activities. That was me,” she said.

Masiwemai has a bachelor’s degree in early education and speaks three languages. She exudes warmth and nurturing when reading to toddlers, sounding out words and getting down on the floor to interact with them.

She’s exactly the type of worker New Mexico wants educating and caring for its youngest children.

But low wages ensure that child care can’t be a long-term career path if she wants to reunite with her daughter and add to her family.

Masiwemai’s pay dilemma is nearly universal here and throughout the United States: A child care worker who loves children but can’t make ends meet on the low wages.

“One thing we do have in this state is a shortage of highly qualified early childhood workers, and the reason we have that shortage is we’re not willing to pay,” said Kelly O’Donnell, […]

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